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them unnecessary, and enables the operators to serve the subscribers with equal facility in any section to which they are assigned. Seely's groups of answering jacks diminished the congestion of lines and the matting which resulted from the connection of the line jacks with each other for purposes of communication. Without these answering jacks the line jack of the calling subscriber was first used for answering purposes, and was then connected with that of the subscriber called by a cord attached to a plug at each end. One of these plugs was inserted in the line jack of the calling subscriber, and the other in that of the subscriber called. Every connection made stretched a cord across a portion of a section of the board. In busy times these cords became numerous and matted. When Seely's groups of answering jacks were placed upon the board it became unnecessary to use the line jacks to answer calls, and the electrical connection of the caller with the called could be effected by connecting the answering jack of the former with the line jack of the latter, thus greatly relieving the congestion of the cords upon that portion of the section covered by the line jacks. These, and perhaps other, benefits conferred by this invention, commended it to the trade, and it immediately went into general, perhaps almost universal, use in all the large telephone exchanges of the country. Its utility is not denied. But it is earnestly contended that it was not patentable because any mechanic skilled in the art could have produced it without the exercise of any of the genius of the inventor. In support of this contention it is argued that letters patent No. 246,481, issued on August 30, 1881, to Eldred and Durant for improvements in telephone exchange systems and apparatus, discloses an annunciator, a line jack, and an answering jack for each subscriber, while letters patent No. 258,234, issued on May 23, 1882, to M. G. Kellogg, shows a board containing line jacks and other boards provided with annunciators and their corresponding answering jacks, so that when Seely made his combination there was nothing left for him but the grouping of the answering jacks, and that there could have been no invention in the mere arranging of these jacks to correspond with the annunciators. A careful examination and analysis of the devices described in these patents discloses the fact, however, that neither of them either suggests the improvement of Seely or was designed to or capable of removing the evils which he sought to remedy. His invention was directed to the improvement of the service on a multiple switchboard, to an effort to enable one operator to render more speedily and efficiently all the service required by the subscribers intrusted to her care. Neither of the patents cited contemplates the use of a multiple switchboard with the improvements it describes, and neither of them in any wav suggests that separate but uniform grouping relative to each other of corresponding annunciators and answering jacks which constitutes the essence of Seely's invention. The patent to Eldred and Durant shows a signal box and two spring jacks at the exchange for each subscriber. The operator is provided with a telephone connected by two wires with the metal sides of a wedge. The sides of this wedge are insulated from each other by a piece of rubber between them. By the insertion of this wedge under a spring jack upon the side of the signal box the telephone of the operator is switched into the circuit, so that she may answer a call or notify a subscriber that some one has called him. When the wedge is withdrawn the circuit is completed through another spring jack, and by the insertion of the plugs of a cord circuit under two of these spring jacks the lines of two subscribers may be electrically connected. It is true that this patent shows an annunciator, a spring jack for answering calls, and a second spring jack ior connecting with other subscribers for each of the subscribers to the exchange. But the device lacks Seely's uniform grouping, his combination with and improvement on the multiple switchboard, his means of accomplishing his purpose, and it is utterly incapable of performing any of the functions or accomplishing any of the objects of his invention.
Nor is the contrivance of Kellogg much nearer in function, means, or effect to the combination of Seely. It has no multiple switchboard. It consists of one board, on which the line jacks of all the subscribers are placed, and two or more other boards, among which the corresponding annunciators are distributed. In practice each annunciator board is served by one operator, while the board which contains the line jacks is worked by switchmen who connect the line jacks as directed by the operators at the annunciator boards. Each operator at an annunciator board is provided with a telephone which she may switch into the circuit of a subscriber by pressing the plug attached to it upon a connecting bolt near or on his annunciator. Conceding that these connecting bolts are the equivalents of Seely's answering jacks, we have here a single switchboard containing the line jacks of all the lines and several switchboards, each one of which is provided with annunciators and corresponding answering jacks of a part of the lines. is no multiple switchboard, no separate and uniform grouping of corresponding annunciators and answering jacks, but an answering jack on each annunciator; no purpose or effort to concentrate all the work of serving each line in the hands of a single operator, but a successful effort to divide it between two or more operators, thereby increasing delay, confusion, and chance of mistake. The combination of this patent does not teach the way to remove the evils which Seely remedied or to reach the desiderata which he sought. The patent describes no means which could perform the function of improving the service of the multiple switchboard which the combination with that board of corresponding annunciators and answering jacks separately but uniformly grouped upon each section of the board effected. Our conclusion is that the patents of Eldred and Durant and of Kellogg do not anticipate or suggest the combination of Seely. The question recurs, did it require any exercise of the inventive faculty to produce his combination, in view of the state of the art which the multiple switchboard of Firman and these patents disclose? No one has yet been able to formulate a test whereby a line of demarkation between the products of the inventor's intuition and the results of the skill of the mechanic may be surely drawn in all cases as they arise. That question is and always must be left for determination by a careful exercise of the judgment, enlightened by a knowledge of the state of the art and of the advance in it which the device in question marks, and guided by the established rules and principles of the law. The two classes of cases led by Atlantic Works v. Brady, 107 U. S. 192, 200, 2 Sup. Ct. 225, 27 L. Ed. 438, and Loom Co. v. Higgins, 105 U. S. 580, 591, 26 L. Ed. 1177, have been again cited and reviewed for our guidance, and have been carefully considered in reaching our conclusion. A plausible and persuasive argument may be made that this combination falls under either class of cases, that it might have been and was produced by the skill of the trained mechanic or by the intuitive genius of the inventor. The patent which describes it, however, raises a presumption in favor of its novelty and its patentability. It was a new combination. No such separate yet uniform grouping of corresponding annunciators and answering jacks with a multiple switchboard had ever been made or used before Seely conceived and described it. That combination was not a pioneer; perhaps it was not a great invention. But it discharged the functions of the multiple switchboard, its annunciators, and switches more speedily and efficiently than they had ever been performed without it, and a new combination of old elements by which an old result is attained in a more facile, economical, and efficient way may be protected by a patent. National Hollow Brake-Beam Co. v. Interchangeable Brake-Beam Co., 106 Fed. 693, 707, 45 C. C. A. 544, 557; Seymour v. Osborne, 11 Wall. 516, 542, 20 L. Ed. 33; Gould v. Rees, 15 Wall. 187, 189, 21 L. Ed. 39; Thomson v. Bank, 53 Fed. 250, 252, 3 C. C. A. 518, 520, 10 U. S. App. 500, 509.
The combination had great utility. It went into immediate and general use. While this fact is insufficient in itself to sustain a patent where the machine or combination is clearly without novelty, yet where the question of novelty is fairly open under the law, the fact that a patented device or combination has displaced others which had previously been used to perform its function and has gone into immediate and general use is pregnant and persuasive evidence that it involved invention. National Hollow Brake-Beam Co. v. Interchangeable Brake-Beam Co., 106 Fed. 693, 707, 45 C. C. A. 544, 558; Smith v. Vulcanite Co., 93 U. S. 486, 495, 23 L. Ed. 952; Loom Co. v. Higgins, 105 U. S. 580, 591, 26 L. Ed. 1177; Manufacturing Co. v. Adams, 151 U. S. 139, 143, 14 Sup. Ct. 295, 38 L. Ed. 103; Magowan v. Packing Co., 141 U. S. 332, 342, 12 Sup. Ct. 71, 35 L. Ed. 781 ; Graphophone Co. v. Leeds (C. C.) 87 Fed. 873; Topliff v. Topliff, 145 U. S. 156, 164, 12 Sup. Ct. 825, 36 L. Ed. 658. It cannot be truthfully said that it is so clear that there was no invention in Seely's device that the question whether or not it was the product of the inventive genius is not open for consideration under the law.
Again, the court below has considered this question in the light of the state of the art, and of the conflicting testimony of the witnesses, and has decided that Seely's combination was an invention. This conclusion is presumptively correct, and ought not to be reversed unless an obvious error has intervened in the application of the law, or some serious mistake has been made in the consideration of the facts by the circuit court. National Hollow Brake-Beam Co. v. Interchangeable Brake-Beam Co., 106 Fed. 693, 716, 45 C. C. A. 544, 567; Mann v. Bank, 86 Fed. 51, 53, 29 C. C. A. 547, 549, 57 U. S. App. 634, 637; Tilghman v. Proctor, 125 U. S. 136, 8 Sup. Ct. 894, 31 L. Ed. 664; Kimberly v. Arms, 129 U. S. 512, 9 Sup. Ct. 355, 32 L. Ed. 764; Furrer v. Ferris, 145 U. S. 132, 134, 12 Sup. Ct. 821, 36 L. Ed. 649; Warren v. Burt, 58 Fed. 101, 106, 7 C. C. A. 105, 110, 12 U. S. App. 591, 600; Plow Co. v. Carson, 72 Fed. 387, 388, 18 C. C. A. 606, 607, 36 U. S. App. 448, 456; Trust Co. v. McClure, 78 Fed. 209, 210, 24. C. C. A. 64, 65, 49 U. S. App. 43, 46; Exploration Co. v. Adams, 104 Fed. 404, 408, 45 C. C. A. 185, 188. There does not appear to have been any such error or mistake in the consideration or decision of this question. Fairly open for debate as the question undoubtedly was under the law and the facts, the novelty of the combination the cleverness of its conception, its obvious utility, the evils it remedied, the advantages it conferred, the presumption accompanying the patent, and the immediate general use of the contrivance furnished ample warrant for the finding that this device was not produced without some exercise of the inventive faculty, and these considerations forbid us to reverse the conclusion. The patent to Seely is not void for want of novelty or invention.
The second objection to this decree is that the combination of the defendants does not infringe that of the complainant. The principle of the multiple switchboard lies at the foundation of both combinations. The defendants, instead of placing all the line jacks of all their subscribers upon the same multiple switchboard, divide their subscribers into four equal parts or divisions, called divisions A, B, C, and D. They place the line jacks of each division on a separate multiple switchboard, consisting of seven sections, but put none of the line jacks of the other three divisions upon this switchboard. On each of the four switchboards they place annunciators and answering jacks for all their subscribers so grouped on the sections of the board that the groups of annunciators have corresponding groups of answering jacks arranged uniformly relatively to each other on all the sections of all the boards. Each subscriber is provided with a directory which shows the members of each of the four divisions. His line has a line jack on one only of the four switchboards, but it has annunciators and answering jacks on all the boards. He is provided with four buttons, one for each of the divisions A, B, C, and D. The directory shows him to what division each subscriber belongs. When he wishes to talk to a member of the A division, he presses his A button, and this actuates his annunciator on the A board, and the operator then proceeds as in Seely's combination to answer through the group of answering jacks, to call the subscriber wanted through the latter's line jack, and to make the electrical connection between the two subscribers. All the annunciators and all the answering jacks of all the lines of the defendants are distributed in corresponding groups upon the sections of each of the four boards, so that each group of annunciators and its corresponding group of answering jacks occupy the same uniform relative position to each other on each section of each of the boards. This uniform grouping relative to each other of the annunciators and their corresponding answering jacks is, however, the principle of Seely's invention. It is the peculiar combination of devices which distinguishes his combination from all other contrivances. Burr v. Duryee, 1 Wall. 531, 17 L. Ed. 650. This, with
all the effects which flow from its use, the facile and automatic finding by the operator of the right answering jack, the change of operators from section to section without loss of efficiency, the practical transfer of the service of subscribers from section to section without change in their numbers, and the diminution of cords upon, and use of, those portions of the boards occupied by the line jacks, the defendants have unquestionably appropriated. They seek to escape from the decree which enjoins them from continuing this infringement upon two grounds: They say, in the first place, that the presence of the line jacks of all the subscribers to an exchange on each of the sections of the multiple switchboard is an essential element of Seely's corbi:ration, and that this element is not found in their device, because only one-fourth of the line jacks of their subscribers appear on any section of any board in their system. And in the second place, they insist that, while all the annunciators and their corresponding answering jacks, when taken together, are uniformly and relatively grouped as in the combination of Seely, yet this is not true of the annunciators of the lines of any division and their corresponding answering jacks when these are considered apart from the annunciators and answering jacks of the other divisions. The portion of the claim of Seely upon which reliance is placed to support the first objection here reads: "In a multiple switchboard system in which the individual annunciators are distributed in groups upon the different boards, switches for all the lines on each of the boards, and, in addition thereto, sets or groups of switches on the different boards,” etc. But the fair interpretation of the words “switches for all the lines on each of the boards” is not that all the line jacks for all the lines in an exchange must necessarily be placed on the same multiple switchboard. “The boards" and "the different boards” in the quotation mean sections of a single switchboard, and not different switchboards, and the true interpretation of Seely's call for "switches for all the lines on each of the boards” is that the line jacks of all the lines served by a single multiple switchboard are to be placed in the usual manner on each of the different sections of that board. And this is exactly what the defendants have done.' They have, it is true, divided their subscribers into four divisions; but they have, in effect, installed four multiple switchboards, one to serve each division of their customers. The line jacks of the A subscribers appear on the A board only. But every line jack served by that board appears upon all the different boards or sections which compose it. This arrangement falls within the plain meaning of Seely's claim, and the fact that the defendants operate three other multiple switchboards arranged in the same way does not lessen their liability for the appropriation.
Nor can they successfully exempt themselves from their just liability for taking the principle and means disclosed in Seely's invention because the grouping of the annunciators and answering jacks pertaining to each of the separate divisions, when these are considered by themselves, may not be uniform upon the various sections of the boards. The essence of Seely's invention is the uniform correspondence in relative position of all, and not of a part of the members of the groups of annunciators and answering jacks, so that, given the