CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.
This cause presents issues as to validity and infringement of claim 23 of the Stephens reissue patent, No. 16,360, for "an improvement in needles and its method of use." The Stelos Company, owner of the patent, sued Hosiery Motor-Mend Corporation and others for infringement. The District Court adjudged the claim invalid by reason of failure to make proper disclosure of the alleged invention, and anticipation; and also thought that if the claim were sustained the defendants did not infringe, and dismissed the bill.*fn1 The Circuit Court of Appeals held the prior art required so narrow a construction of the claim as to exclude the method charged as an infringement and affirmed the decree.*fn2 We granted certiorari*fn3 to resolve a conflict with a decision of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.*fn4 In support of
the judgment the defendants might have urged the point as to invalidity, decided against them in the Circuit Court of Appeals, without applying for a cross-writ of certiorari.*fn5 Out of excess of caution, however, they prayed for the writ. Since both writs would run to but one judgment, and bring up the same record, we granted the prayer in No. 653.*fn6
To knit is to form a fabric by the interlacing of a single yarn or thread in a series of connected loops. In knitted articles, of which a silk stocking is an example, a break in the thread anywhere in the fabric will cause a number of loops to pull out, leaving in their place parallel threads. The consequent defect is called a ladder or a run. The only possible method of repair consists in picking up the thread at the end of the run and reknitting by reforming the loops throughout the ladder, fastening the thread upon the completion of the operation. It has long been known that this could be accomplished by the use of a needle having a hook at the end resembling an ordinary crochet needle, but the task involved difficulties and the result was often unsatisfactory.
Stephens' patent is for an improved latch needle for this work, and for a method of executing the repair. Twenty-two claims for the needle are not in issue. Claim 23, which covers the method, is the basis of the suit. The method is stated in the patent to consist:
"in stretching the fabric over a suitable holder,
inserting a repairing device having a hook and pivoted latch through a loop formed in the run or raveling,
continuing this movement on through the fabric while holding the device laterally out of alignment with the run or raveling until the loop has slid back over the end of the latch and beneath the latter,
then reversing the movement of the device ...