RICHARDS V. CHASE ELEVATOR CO., 158 U. S. 299 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Richards v. Chase Elevator Co., 158 U.S. 299 (1895)

Richards v. Chase Elevator Company

No. 310

Argued April 25, 1895

Decided May 20, 1895

158 U.S. 299


If letters patent be manifestly invalid upon their face, the question of their validity may be raised on demurrer, and the case may be determined on the issue so formed.

Letters patent No. 308,095, issued November 18, 1884, to Edward S. Richards for a grain transferring apparatus, are wholly void upon their face

for want of patentable novelty and invention.

This was a bill in equity for the infringement of letters patent No. 308,095, issued November 18, 1884, to the plaintiff, Richards, for a grain-transferring apparatus.

The purpose of the invention, as stated by the patentee, was

"to provide improved means for transferring and weighing grain without mixing different lots or loads with each other, thus preserving the identity of each lot while it is being transferred from one car to another."

The device in question was substantially one for shifting grain from one car to another through an elevator, by means of which the grain is raised from one car to a hopper in the elevator, where it is weighed and discharged into another car. The device is illustrated by the following drawings:


The patentee thus explained the operation of his device:

"The car to be unloaded -- for example, the car, B -- is drawn upon the track, F, and allowed to stand in such a position that the door will be directly opposite the chute, J. If the grain is to be transferred to a car opposite, or about opposite, the car, B -- for example, to the car D -- I close the door or valve, L, and open the valve, K. The grain is then shoveled from the car by means of a steam shovel, or otherwise, into the chute, J, from which it passes into the elevator leg, through which the buckets move upwards. The grain is thus elevated and discharged into the hopper of the hopper scales, located for discharging its contents into the Car, D. That hopper has its

Page 158 U. S. 300

valve closed while being filled, but when filled, the grain therein is weighed, and discharged into the car intended to receive it."

The patentee further explained that if the cars are not opposite to each other, he closes the valve, K, and opens the valve, L, through which, by a similar method, the grain is carried, lifted, and discharged into the other car. The claims of the patent were as follows:

"1. The combination of a fixed or stationary building, the tracks, F and G, an elevator apparatus, and elevator hopper scales having a fixed or stationary hopper provided with a valve or slide in its bottom, and a discharge spout, P, adapted and arranged for discharging the grain directly from the said hopper into a car, substantially as specified, and for the purposes set forth."

"2. The combination of a fixed or stationary building, the tracks, F and G, two or more elevating apparatus, a series of two or more elevator hopper scales having fixed or stationary hoppers, each having a valve or slide in its bottom, the discharge spouts, PP, adapted and arranged for discharging the grain directly from said hoppers, respectively, into a correspondingly arranged car, a horizontal conveyor, the chutes,

Page 158 U. S. 301

JJ, having therein the doors or valves, K and L, and the slides or doors, OO, all arranged substantially as shown and described, with relation to each other, and for the purposes set forth."

A demurrer was interposed to the bill, to the effect that the patent and both claims thereof were wholly void upon their face, for the want of patentable novelty and invention. This demurrer was sustained, and the bill dismissed. 40 F.1d 5. Thereupon plaintiff appealed to this Court.

The case was argued with No. 311, Richards v. Michigan Central Railroad Company, and No. 312, Richards v. Chicago & Grand Trunk Railroad Company.


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