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U.S. Supreme Court

Cameron Septic Tank Co. v. Knoxville, 227 U.S. 39 (1913)

Cameron Septic Tank Company v. Knoxville, Iowa

No. 82

Argued December 11, 12, 1912

Decided January 20, 1913

227 U.S. 39


Although, under § 4884, Rev.Stat., a patent is for seventeen years, under the provision of § 4887, Rev.Stat., as it has been judicially construed, the American patent granted for an invention previously patented in another country is limited by law, whether so expressed in the patent itself or not, to expire with the foreign patent previously granted having the shortest term.

Section 4887, Rev.Stat., limiting patents to the period of the same patent previously granted by a foreign country, if any, has not been superseded by Article 4 bis of the Treaty of Brussels of 1900.

A most essential attribute of a patent is the term of its duration, which is necessarily fixed by local law, and the Treaty of Brussels will not be construed as breaking down provisions of the local law regulating the issuing of the patent. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 227 U. S. 40

The Act of 1903 effectuating the provision of the Brussels Treaty, as construed in the light of surrounding circumstances and of similar legislation in other countries, did not extend an American patent beyond the period prescribed by § 4887, Rev.Stat.

The Brussels Treaty of 1900 should be construed in accordance with the declaration of the Congress at which it was framed and adopted at the instance of the American delegates, and it was the sense of the Congress of the United States that the treaty was not elf-executing.

The Act of 1903 did not make Article 4 bis of the Treaty of Brussels effective or override the provision of § 4887, Rev.Stat.

The facts, which involve the construction of §§ 4884 and 4887, Rev.Stat., as affected by the Treaty of Brussels of 1900 and the effect of prior patents in foreign countries on the duration of an American patent, are stated in the opinion.

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