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Burr v. Duryee (68 U.S. 531, 1863)

Decision Parameters

Decisions It Cites

    McClurg v. Kingsland [46 U.S. 202, 1843]
    O'Reilly v. Morse [56 U.S. 15, 1853]

Decisions That Cite It

Rules & Quotes

[USEFUL] {1} We find here no authority to grant a patent for a "principle" or a "mode of operation", or an idea, or any other abstraction. A machine is a concrete thing, consisting of parts, or of certain devices and combination of devices. The principle of a machine is properly defined to be "its mode of operation", or that peculiar combination of devices which distinguish it from other machines. A machine is not a principle or an idea.

{2} Much less can any inference be drawn from the statute, that an inventor who has made an improvement in a machine, and thus effects the desired result in a better or cheaper manner than before, can include all previous inventions, and have a claim to the whole art, discovery, or machine which he has improved. All others have an equal right to make improved machines, provided they do not embody the same, or substantially the same devices, or combination of devices, which constitute the peculiar characteristic of the previous invention.

[ABSTRACT] {3} In this case we have an attempt to convert an improved machine into an abstraction, a principle or mode of operation, or a still more vague and indefinite entity often resorted to in argument, an "idea". Those who use the latter term seem to have no fixed idea of what they mean by it.

[ABSTRACT] {4} The surrender of valid patents, and the granting of reissued patents thereon, with expanded or equivocal claims, where the original was clearly neither "inoperative nor invalid," and whose specification is neither "defective or insufficient", is a great abuse of the privilege granted by the statute, and productive of great injury to the public. This privilege was not given to the patentee or his assignee in order that the patent may be rendered more elastic or expansive, and therefore more "available" for the suppression of all other inventions.

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