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decided: April 12, 1926.



Taft, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Sanford, Stone

Author: Taft

[ 270 U.S. Page 498]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

Philip A. Luckett is a citizen of Connecticut. He brought this bill in equity in the District Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey against

[ 270 U.S. Page 499]

     Delpark, a corporation of New York, and against Parker, Ford & Dick, a corporation, formerly known as the Luckett Company, organized in the State of Maryland. Appearing for the purpose of the motion only, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, because the court was without jurisdiction to entertain the bill. The certificate by the District Court shows its dismissal on that ground, September 17, 1924. This appeal was allowed, November 24, 1924, so that it is maintainable under § 238 of the Judicial Code, in accordance with the saving provision of § 14 of the Act of February 13, 1925, 43 Stat. 942.

Section 51 of the Judicial Code provides that where the jurisdiction is founded on the fact that the action is between citizens of different States, suits shall be brought only in the district of the residence of either the plaintiff or the defendant. The requisite diverse citizenship between the plaintiff and the defendants exists in this suit, but the District of New Jersey is not the district of the residence of either the plaintiff or the defendants. And against defendants' objection, jurisdiction on that ground can not be sustained.

The plaintiff asserts that jurisdiction exists as of a suit under the patent laws under the Judicial Code, § 24, par. 7, § 48 and § 256. Section 48 provides that "in suits for the infringement of letters patent, the District Courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction in law or in equity in the district of which the defendant is an inhabitant, or in any district in which the defendant, whether a person, partnership or corporation, shall have committed acts of infringement and have a regular and established place of business." The question in this case, then, is whether, it being averred that the defendants regularly do business in New Jersey, and have made and sold there the patented articles referred to in the bill, its allegations make the suit one arising under the patent laws.

[ 270 U.S. Page 500]

     The bill shows that two patents were issued to Luckett, one on November 12, 1918, No. 1284391, and the other on October 12, 1915, No. 1156301, for a method of making undergarments known as union suits. The later patent, No. 1284391, is averred to be the generic and the broader invention, while the earlier patent, No. 1156301, is a specific and narrower one. After the later patent was applied for, but before it was granted, Luckett gave a nonexclusive license for manufacture and sale of the garments under it to the Delpark corporation. This reserved to Luckett a royalty on all garments manufactured and sold under it, the licensee covenanting to give access to its books of account. A supplementary agreement made the license exclusive. Later, Luckett gave to the other defendant, Parker, Ford & Dick, an assignment of the Letters Patent No. 1156301, under which a particular union suit known as the "My Pal" suit is made, with conditions subsequent that the assignee should pay certain royalties, should keep the accounts open for inspection, and should push vigorously the sale of "My Pal" suits, and with a provision that, if any condition subsequent failed, the title to the letters patent assigned should revert to Luckett, on his giving the assignee thirty days' notice in writing of his election to resume title. All the contracts of license and assignment made by the plaintiff with each of the defendants are attached to the bill as exhibits.

The averments of the bill are that Delpark, Incorporated, has acquired control of the stock of the Parker, Ford & Dick corporation, and the defendants are acting together; that the Delpark corporation refuses to pay to Luckett any royalties due under its exclusive license of the generic patent; that the Parker, Ford & Dick corporation refuses to pay any royalties under plaintiff's assignment to it of the specific patent, and refuses to push the sale of "My Pal" suits; that this refusal is to prevent competition of the "My Pal" suits with the Delpark suits,

[ 270 U.S. Page 501]

     and thus deprives plaintiff of royalties on the "My Pal" suits. The plaintiff avers that on November 27, 1918, by notice in writing he cancelled his assignment to the Parker, Ford & Dick corporation, for failure of condition subsequent, and resumed his title to Letters Patent No. 1156301.

The seventeenth paragraph in the bill, and the only one which uses the word "infringement," is as follows:

"(XVII) And your orator further shows unto your Honors, that Delpark, Incorporated, is a large concern with substantial capital, and ever since the issue of Letters Patent No. 1,284,391 on November 12, 1918, has been actively engaged in the manufacture and sale of the Delpark garment so-called, which infringes the claims of the said Letters Patent and also the claims of Letters Patent No. 1,156,301; and that large numbers of the said garment have been made and sold upon which royalties are now due to your orator, the amount of which he is wholly unable to state with definiteness, but which is far larger than three thousand dollars, exclusive of interest and costs; and that though often requested as hereinbefore set out, no accounting has ever been had between your orator and Delpark, Incorporated, or Parker, Ford & Dick, Inc., either as to royalties due or as to damages for failure to observe the contract to exploit the 'My Pal' garment."

The plaintiff sets out thirteen prayers for equitable relief. He asks that the defendants file statements of the garments made and sold under both patents containing retail prices at which the garments were sold, in order to show the royalties due; also a statement of the orders received for the "My Pal" garments but not filled, with prices, to show the royalties lost; and that they be compelled to permit access to their books of account. ...

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