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Lorenz v. Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
167 F.2d 423 (1948)


Facts

Lorenz and Wilson (plaintiffs) filed a patent application for a soap manufacturing process in January 1920. Lorenz disclosed the process claimed in the application to Ittner, a chemist at Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co. (Colgate) (defendant), so Colgate could determine whether the company was interested in using the manufacturing method. Ittner told Lorenz he was uninterested. Thereafter, the Patent Office rejected Lorenz’s application, and Lorenz declined to pursue the patent. Ittner then applied to patent the same process in February 1931, and was issued the patent. For the following two years, Colgate used the manufacturing method in its factory to produce soap. When Lorenz discovered Ittner’s patent, Lorenz filed a petition with the Patent Office to pursue his original patent application. The Patent Office rejected the petition, and Lorenz filed a new application in November 1934, re-claiming the process and contending that the subject matter of Ittner’s patent belonged to Lorenz and was disclosed to Ittner in 1920. The Patent Office declared an interference and granted Lorenz a patent. Lorenz brought suit against Colgate to invalidate Ittner's interfering patent. The district court held that Lorenz’s patent was void, finding, among other things, that Colgate’s use of the manufacturing process in its factory constituted prior public use barring Lorenz’s patent rights. Lorenz appealed, arguing that the public use bar did not apply if the invention was pirated.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Biggs, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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