Samuel Morse (plaintiff) was issued a patent for his telegraph in 1840 and again in 1848. Morse’s two patent applications claimed that Morse had ownership rights to the telegraph machinery that he had described in his application’s specifications. However, in the eighth claim in Morse’s patent application, Morse also claimed ownership rights to any future invention that used electro-magnetism to print characters or letters at a distance. In 1845, Henry O’Reilly (defendant) installed a telegraph system in Kentucky and Tennessee. Morse sued O’Reilly for patent infringement in the United States Circuit Court for the District of Kentucky. The circuit court upheld the validity of Morse’s patent and found that O’Reilly had committed patent infringement. O’Reilly appealed to the United States Supreme Court.