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Opinion of the Court.
Mr. J. Marion Brooks and Mr. M. D. Brainard for plaintiff in error.
Mr. Assistant Attorney General Whitney for defendants in
MR. JUSTICE SHIRAs, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
Error is attributed to the court below in permitting the witness Flint to testify in the case, for the reason that he was an officer of the United States, and that correspondence was carried on, through the mails, for the sole purpose of obtaining evidence from the defendant upon which to base the prosecution. A similar contention was disposed of by this court in the case of Grimm v. United States, 156 U. S. 604, where it was said: “It does not appear that it was the purpose of the post office inspector to induce or solicit the commission of a crime, but it was to ascertain whether the defendant was engaged in an unlawful business. The mere facts that the letters were written under an assumed name, and that the writer was a government official — a detective, he may be called — do not of themselves constitute a defence to the crime actually committed. The official, suspecting that the defendant was engaged in a business offensive to good morals, sought information directly from him, and the defendant, responding thereto, violated a law of the United States by using the mails to convey such information, and he cannot plead in defence that he would not have violated the law if inquiry had not been made of him by the government official.” Goode v. United States, 159 U. S. 663, though under a different statute, is to the like effect.
The evidence showed that the letters in question were private sealed letters, enclosed in envelopes upon which there was nothing but the name and address of the person to whom they were sent, and it is contended that the depositing of such letters in the mail is not an offence within the meaning of section 3893 of the Revised Statutes, even as amended in
Opinion of the Court.
1888. By that amendment the word " letter” was inserted in the statute. In the case of United States v. Chase, 135 U. S. 255, which was the case of an indictment for an offence committed before the amendment, Mr. Justice Lamar, who delivered the opinion of the court, expressly refrained from deciding “ whether the term “letter,' introduced by the amendment of 1888, could be held to include a strictly private sealed letter."
Owing, perhaps, to the doubt thus suggested, it was held in several of the lower courts that the word “letter," thus introduced into the statute, must, in the light of the other words used, be deemed to be some sort of a publication, and not merely private sealed letters. United States v. Wilson, 58 Fed. Rep. 768; United States v. Warner, 59 Fed. Rep. 355; and United States v. Jarvis, 59 Fed. Rep. 357. The contrary view was taken in United States v. Andrews, 58 Fed. Rep. 861 - the present case - in United States v. Nathan, 61 Fed. Rep. 936; and in United States v. Ling, 61 Fed. Rep. 1001.
However, any doubt there may have been as to the proper meaning to be given to the word has been removed by the case above cited, of Grimm v. United States, where mailing a private sealed letter, in an envelope on which nothing appeared but the name and address, but containing obscene matter, was held to be an offence within the statute.
It is likewise argued that, because of the provision of the law that “nothing in this act shall authorize any person to open any letter or sealed matter of the first class not addressed to himself," 25 Stat. 496, the act of the inspector in opening the letters addressed to “Susan H. Budlong” was itself an offence against the law, which would vitiate the evidence thus produced against the defendant. The inspector, however, testified that he and Susan H. Budlong were the same person, or, in other words, that the address was fictitious.
Complaint is made because the court failed to give defendant's requests for instructions; but the instructions actually given by the court are not disclosed by the record, and we may presume that such instructions covered the defendant's requests so far as they stated the law correctly. This we are
Statement of the Case.
the more ready to do in the present case, as no specific exceptions were taken to the action of the court in refusing or in giving instructions. Reagan v. Aiken, 138 U. S. 109.
There were other assignments of error, but we think they do not merit special notice. The judgment of the court below is
DASHIELL V. GROSVENOR.
CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH
No. 569. Argued January 9, 10, 1896.
Decided April 18, 1896.
The first claim in letters patent No. 425,584, issued April 15, 1890, to Sam
uel Seabury for an improvement in breech-loading cannon, viz. : for “The combination, with a breech-loading cannon and a breech-block for the same, which is withdrawn in a rearward direction, of a breech-block carrier hinged to the breech, and a breech-block retractor hinged to the breech separate from said carrier to move independently of said carrier to draw the breech-block thereinto and push it therefrom, but capable of moving the said carrier while the breech-block is therein, substantially as set forth;” must, in view of the state of the art at the time of the invention, be limited to the precise mechanism employed : and, being thus limited, it is not infringed by the device patented to Robert B. Dashiell by letters patent No. 468,331, dated February 9, 1892.
This was a bill in equity by the appellees against Dashiell for the infringement of letters-patent No. 425,584, issued April 15, 1890, to Samuel Seabury, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, for an improvement in breech-loading cannon. In his specification the patentee made the following statement of his invention :
"This improvement relates to breech-loading cannon in which a screw breech-block, which is withdrawn in a rearward direction, is employed, with a swing carrier or receiver hinged to one side of the breech of the gun, and into which the breech-block is withdrawn, and which serves as a guide for
Statement of the Case.
directing the breech-block into and from its seat in the breech and as a support for the breech-block while out of the gun. In such a gun there are three movements necessary to open the breech - namely, first, the turning of the breech-block to unlock it ; second, the withdrawal of the breech-block backward into the receiver; and, third, the swing aside of the receiver with the breech-block in it. These three movements have hitherto been separately performed by hand, the breech-block having been first turned to unlock it by hand and then pulled by hand back into the receiver, and the receiver having been then swung aside by hand with the breechblock in it to open the breech.
“ The object of this improvement is to provide for the more rapid working, loading and firing of such breech-loading cannon by effecting all these movements in succession by a continuous movement of a single lever.”
The plaintiff relied only upon the first claim of the patent, which reads as follows:
“1. The combination, with a breech-loading cannon and a breech-block for the same, which is withdrawn in a rearward direction, of a breech-block carrier hinged to the breech, and a breech-block retractor hinged to the breech separate from said carrier to move independently of said carrier to draw the breech-block thereinto and push it therefrom, but capable of moving the said carrier while the breech-block is therein, substantially as set forth."
The plaintiffs were Seabury, the patentee, and certain others, who were assignees of interests under the patent. The defendant was, when the suit was begun, an ensign in the United States Navy, and the infringing acts were admitted to have been done under his authority and procurement, under a contract between himself and the Navy Department, through which he was to be paid a stipulated sum for each gun manufactured, embodying the infringing device. For this device letters patent No. 468,331 had been issued to him February 9, 1892.
Upon a hearing, upon pleadings and proofs, the Circuit Court was of the opinion that the Seabury patent was valid, and the Dashiell patent an infringement thereon, and it entered a decree to that effect. 62 Fed. Rep. 584.
Opinion of the Court.
On appeal to the Court of Appeals, that court was of opinion that an injunction would prohibit the officers in charge of the navy yard from manufacturing guns for use upon the war vessels of the United States, and for that reason ought not to be granted. The bill of complaint also relied upon certain allegations of fraud which the court held were material to be proved, and were not sustained ; and for those reasons it reversed the decree of the court below and dismissed the bill. 25 U. S. App. 227.
Application was thereon made to this court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted.
Mr. William II. Singleton for appellant.
Mr. Samuel F. Phillips for the United States. Mr. F. D. McKenney was on his brief.
Mr. William A. Jenner and Mr. William G. Wilson for appellees.
MR. JUSTICE BRown, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.
The question of infringement in this case turns largely upon the construction to be given to the first claim of the Seabury patent. If, as set forth in his specification, he is entitled to claim broadly, by the continuous operation of a single lever, the performance of the three movements necessary to open the breech of a breech-loading gun, viz., unlocking the breechblock, pulling it back into the receiver, and swinging it to one side, the Dashiell patent, which effects the same movements in substantially the same way, would probably be an infringement. It is claimed that, prior to the Seabury patent, those three movements were separately made by hand, and that the novelty of his invention consists in their successive performance by the single sweep of a lever.
To ascertain whether he is entitled to this broad claim, it is necessary to consider somewhat at length the state of the art at the time the Seabury patent was issued. In modern war