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0 261 US 45

United States Supreme Court
No. 178
Decided On : February 19, 1923

[261 U.S. 45, 46] This was a bill in equity charging the infringement of a patent and seeking an injunction, an accounting and damages. The patent, No. 845,224, issued to William Eibel, February 26, 1907. The application was filed August 22, 1906. The specifications de cribe the patent as for an improvement for Fourdrinier machines for paper making, and say that it has for its object to construct and arrange the machine whereby it may be run at a very much higher speed than heretofore and produce a more uniform sheet of paper which is strong, even and well formed. The contention of the plaintiff, the petitioner here, is that his improvement was an important step in the art of paper making, and increased the daily product from 20 to 30 per cent.

The patent was held void by the District Court for the Western District of New York in the Case of Eibel Process Co. v. Remington-Martin Co., 226 Fed. 766 (1914). On appeal, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the decree of dismissal in the District Court, sustained the patent, and found infringement of claims Nos. 1, 2 and 3, but did not pass upon claims Nos. 7, 8 and 12. 234 Fed. 624, 148 C. C. A. 390 (1916). The bill in the present case was filed in the District Court for Maine, January 1, 1917. That court in 1920 held the patent valid and entered a decree of injunction and for damages. 267 [261 U.S. 45, 47] Fed. 847. On appeal, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed the decree and directed the dismissal of the bill, 274 Fed. 540 ( 1921). Because of the conflict in the two circuits, certiorari was granted to review the latter decree.

The Fourdrinier machine has for many years been well known and most widely used for making news print paper. Its main feature is an endless wire cloth sieve passed over a series of rolls at a constant speed. The sieve known as the wire is woven with 60 or 70 meshes to the inch. It may be 70 feet or more in length, and is often more than 100 inches in width. Its working surface, with the total length of 70 feet, is about 30 feet; the rest being taken up in the return of the wire underneath. At what is called the breast roll, at one end of the machine, there is discharged upon the wire, from a flow box or pond, a constant stream of papermaking stock of fibers of wood pulp mixed with from 135 to 200 times their weight of water of the consistency and fluidity of diluted milk. As this stream moves along the wire, the water drains through its meshes and the fibers are deposited thereon. The process is stimulated by a device to shake the wire with constant and rapid sidewise thrusts, forward and back, which insures the proper interlocking and felting of the stock as it progresses; the water continuing to drain from it. At the end of the surface length of the wire, the stock reaches what are called the couch rolls, between which it is pressed, and then in the form of a sheet of uniformly distributed pulp, felted sufficiently to hold together, it leaves the wire and is carried through a series of rolls or calendars by which the sheet is pressed and dried, and from which it emerges to be rolled up as finished paper.

In the flow box, or pond, where the stream of pulp stock is stored, there is a gate or door, forming the end of the flow box, called the slice, by lifting which the stock [261 U.S. 45, 48] is given the opportunity to flow upon the wire. The stream thus issuing is given a width of the desired sheet of paper and a depth regulated by the height to which the slice is lifted. The stream on the wire is prevented from flowing off the sides by deckle straps, which are thick rubber bands, resting on each side of the wire at each side of the pulp. Traveling with the wire, they form lateral walls confining the stock till it is too dry to flow. Between the breast roll, where the stream of liquid stock strikes the wire, and the couch rolls, at the end of the surface length of the wire, there is a series of parallel horizontal rolls supporting the wire, called table rolls, and 20 feet from the breast roll there are placed, under the wire and in contact with it, three suction boxes in succession, in which a partial vacuum is maintained, and through them is sucked out the greater part of the water remaining in the wet sheet of the pulp. Placed above the wire, and just beyond the first suction box, is what is called the dandy roll, which is faced with wire cloth. Its office is to impress the upper surface of the forming sheet of paper and give it a texture similar to that which the lower surface of the paper has from its contact with the wire. It may also carry the design which is to give the watermark to the sheet, if such a mark is desired. Beyond this is a larger roll, called the guide roll, arranged with an automatic device varying its axis, so as to keep the wire straight. From the guide roll the wire drops below the plane to the couch rolls, already referred to.

These machines are very large, some of them weighing more than 1,000, 000 pounds, and their cost will range as high as $125,000. They are run night and day, in order that the capital invested in them may yield a proper return. Speed, which increases production, is therefore of the highest importance. Eibels patent had for its avowed purpose of increase of this speed. [261 U.S. 45, 49] Eibel says in his specifications:

Two figures accompany the specifications of the Eibel patent. Figure No. 1 shows the wire of the Fourdrinier machine in outline from the breast roll to the guide and couch rolls, with a screw device for raising and lowering [261 U.S. 45, 50] the breast roll and wire from the horizontal. The outline shows an elevation of the breast roll and wire, so that the angle between the wire and the horizontal at the guide roll is about 4 per cent., which in a surface length of 30 feet would mean an elevation of 12 inches at the breast roll. T

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