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WILBUR-ELLIS CO. V. KUTHER, 377 U. S. 422 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wilbur-Ellis Co. v. Kuther, 377 U.S. 422 (1964)

Wilbur-Ellis Co. v. Kuther

No. 109

Argued February 20, 1964

Decided June 8, 1964

377 U.S. 422


Respondent, who owned a combination patent covering a canning machine, authorized the sale of machines made thereunder designed to pack fish into "1-pound" cans. Petitioner company bought four of these machines second-hand, three of them rusted, corroded and inoperable, and all four requiring cleaning and sandblasting to become usable. The machines were reconditioned, and six of the 35 elements of the patent combination were resized to enable the machines to pack "5-ounce" cans. The District Court and the Court of Appeals held for respondent in his suit for patent infringement.

Held: Adapting the machine for use on a different-sized commodity is within the patent rights purchased, and is not an infringement. Pp. 377 U. S. 424-425.

(a) In adapting the machines to a related use and lengthening the useful capacity of the old combination on which royalties were paid, petitioners were closer to permissible "repairing" than infringing "reconstructing." P. 377 U. S. 425.

(b) The fact that the adaptation made the machines more useful did not make it "reconstruction." P. 377 U. S. 425.

(c) Petitioner's license to use the machines is not for "1-pound" cans only, as they were sold outright, and with no restrictions. P. 377 U. S. 425.

314 F.2d 71 reversed.

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