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United States v. Singer Manufacturing Co.

United States Supreme Court
374 U.S. 174 (1963)


Facts

Singer Manufacturing Company (Singer) (defendant), the Italian company Vigorelli, and the Swiss company Gegauf all manufactured sewing machines. Brother International Corporation (Brother) was a domestic affiliate of a Japanese company, established to sell Japanese sewing machines in the United States. Singer, Vigorelli, and Gegauf were concerned about their potential loss of U.S. market share to Brother. Each company had applied for patents for sewing machine technologies; these applications were pending in several countries, including the United States, raising questions of patent priority. Rather than go through litigation to determine which patents had which priority in which country, Singer, Vigorelli, and Gegauf settled their priority dispute by having each company sign a cross-licensing agreement with the other two companies. To help ensure that Gegauf agreed to work toward the common goal of excluding Japanese competition, Singer informed Gegauf that it knew of prior art it could file with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which, if filed, could invalidate the parties’ patent applications in full. Singer proposed that Gegauf assign to Singer Gegauf’s patent application because Singer was better situated to prosecute Brother’s use of the pending patent in the United States. Gegauf agreed and assigned its patent application to Singer. The United States government (plaintiff) brought an antitrust suit against Singer, alleging a violation of §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the claim. The United States government appealed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Clark, J.)

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Concurrence (White, J.)

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