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decided: October 21, 1901.




[ 183 U.S. Page 8]

 MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the above statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court.

We are of opinion that no valid trade-mark was proved on the part of the Rahtjens, in connection with the paint sent by them from Germany to their agents in the United States prior to 1873, when they procured a patent in England for their composition. In appears from the record that from 1870 to 1879, or late in 1878, the paint was manufactured in Germany by Rahtjen and sent to the United States in casks or packages marked "Rahtjen's Patent Composition Paint."

Prior to November, 1873, the article was not patented anywhere, and a description of it as a patented article had no basis in fact, and was a false statement tending to deceive a purchaser of the article. No right to a trade-mark which includes the word "patent," and which describes the article as "patented" can arise when there is and has been no patent, nor is the claim a valid one for the other words used where it is based upon their use in connection with that word. A symbol or label claimed as a trade-mark, so constituted or worded as to make or contain a distinct assertion which is false, will not be recognized, nor can any right to its exclusive use be maintained. Manhattan Medicine Company v. Wood, 108 U.S. 218, 225; Wrisley Co. v. Iowa Soap Co., 104 Fed. Rep. 548.

In 1873 an English patent had been obtained, and from that time to 1878, when the Rahtjens assigned the exclusive right of sale in the United States to Suter, Hartmann & Co., the words "Rahtjen's Patent Composition" were used on casks containing the paint sent by the Rahtjens to the United States, and must have referred to the English patent, as there was no other, and the right to use those words depended upon the existence of the patent, although up to 1878 the article sent to the

[ 183 U.S. Page 9]

     United States was manufactured in Germany. As the right to use the word depended upon the English patent, the right to so designate the composition fell with the expiration of that patent, and from that time (1880) until 1883, when the trade-mark was obtained by Suter, Hartmann & Co., there can be no claim made of an exclusive right to designate the composition as Rahtjen's composition, because from 1880 that right became public as a description of the article and not of the name of the manufacturer. During its whole existence the name had been given to the article, and that was the only name by which it was possible to describe it.

The labels used by Suter, Hartmann & Co., from the outset of their career as sole consignees, contained the description "Rahtjen's Patent Composition, None genuine without signature, Suter, Hartmann & Co." These labels were affixed to the packages, and were sent to Rahtjen in Germany when he manufactured for them, to be placed on packages, and when he subsequently made the composition in England the labels were sent to him there to be affixed. This way of designating the composition was employed by Rahtjen in Germany for his own sales, and Suter, Hartmann & Co. simply copied his method of describing the same. How else could this article thereafter be described? When the right to make it became public, how else could it be sold than by the name used to describe it? And when a person having the right to make it described the composition by its name and said it was manufactured by him, and said it so plainly that no one seeing the label could fail to see that the package on which it was placed was Rahjen's composition manufactured by Holzapfel & Co., or Holzapfel's Composition Company (Limited), how can it be held that there was any infringement of a trade-mark by employing the only terms possible to describe the article the manufacture of which was open to all? Of necessity when the right to manufacture became public the right to use the only word descriptive of the article manufactured became public also.

This rule held good when at the expiration of the patent in November, 1880, Suter, Hartmann & Co. continued to send the paint to the United States as "Rahtjen's Patent Composition,

[ 183 U.S. Page 10]

     Hartmann's Manufacture," because it is plain that the name of Rahtjen had, as we have said, become descriptive of the article itself, and was not a designation of the manufacturer. It had been manufactured both in Germany and in England at the same time, and that which was manufactured in England by Hartmann Brothers or Suter, Hartmann & Co. had been distinguished from the German article by the statement that it was "Rahtjen's Genuine Composition, Hartmann's Manufacture." If any one had desired to use this paint and had called for it in the market, he would necessarily have been compelled to describe it as "Rahtjen's Composition," as there was no other name for the article, and though in England while the patent lasted no one but the patentee or his licensees could manufacture the article, yet the description would still have been "Rahtjen's Composition;" but when the patent expired the exclusive right to manufacture the article expired with it, while the name which described it became, under the facts of this case, necessarily one of description and did not designate the manufacturers. There was no other name for the article, and in order to obtain it a person would have to describe it by the words "Rahtjen's Composition." The words thus became public property descriptive of the article, and the right to manufacture it was open to all by the expiration of the English patent. After Suter, Hartmann & Co. obtained the trade-mark of an open hand, originally painted red, together with the name "Rahtjen's Patent Composition," which was some time in 1883, the paint was sent to the United States under that designation; but the trade-mark was not obtained without the positive disclaimer by the plaintiffs of the right of exclusive use of the words "Rahtjen's Composition," and unless they disclaimed that exclusive right they could have obtained on trade-mark.

The registration of the trade-mark of Hartmann, La Doux & Maecker in the United States in June, 1885, was not only subsequent to the expiration of the English patent, but also subsequent to the time when the defendant company had commenced to manufacture the paint as "Rahtjen's Composition, Holzapfel's Manufacture," and had sent the same to the United States under that description, at least as early as 1884. The United

[ 183 U.S. Page 11]

     States registered trade-mark could not, therefore, interfere with the prior (but not exclusive) right of the defendant to the use of those words.

The respondent company advertised and sold in the United States the composition under the name of "Rahtjen's Composition, Hartmann's Manufacture," while the petitioner advertised and sold its composition as "Holzapfel's Rahtjen's" or "Holzapfel's Improved Rahtjen's Composition," or "Holzapfel's Improved American Rahtjen's;" so it seen there is no room for the claim that the composition manufactured by the petitioner purports to be manufactured by Rahtjen or Hartmann. It is a clear cut description of the name of the article which it manufactures, and there is no pretense of deceit as to the person who in fact manufactures it.

The trade-marks which have been spoken of, and which were obtained in 1883 and 1884, do not cover the right to use the name "Rahtjen" exclusively. The trade-mark obtained in April, 1883, by Hartmann Brothers, described as the "red hand symbol," does not purport to contain any name, while that issued to Suter, Hartmann & Co., while it contained the name "Rahtjen's Patent Composition," was obtained only by the disclaimer on the part of the applicants of the right to the exclusive use of those words, except as part of the combination constituting the trade-mark. Prior to the English patent, the respondent's predecessors or assigns had no valid trade-mark in England for the same reason the Rahtjens had acquired none in the United States, viz., they had no right to designate the composition as a patented article when in fact there was no patent. From 1873 to 1880, while the patent was in life, they were entirely justified in calling it a patented article, and when that patent expired, it seems clear they had no right to retain the exclusive use of the only name which described the composition, and that no such right could be claimed by virtue of a valid trade-mark antedating the patent, for there was none, assuming even that such fact, if it had existed, would have justified the claim to the exclusive use of the descriptive words after the patent had expired.

The judgments in the Antwerp and Hamburg courts simply

[ 183 U.S. Page 12]

     showed that in those countries the use of the words "Rahtjen's Composition" or "Rahtjen's Patent Composition" had become descriptive of the article itself and did not in any way designate the persons who manufactured it; but even without those judgments, the record shows beyond question that when the English patent expired the use of the words became open to the world as descriptive of the article itself, and to manufacture an article under that name was a right open to the world. There was no trade-mark in that name in the United States.

The principles involved in Singer Manufacturing Company v. June Manufacturing Company, 163 U.S. 169, apply here.

It is said there is a distinction between the case at bar and the one cited, because in the latter the patent and the trade-mark were both domestic, while here the trade-mark is domestic and the patent foreign. The respondent claims the right to use these words by virtue of assignments from the Messrs. Rahtjen and also Suter, Hartmann & Co. in England, and also by virtue of a domestic trade-mark which it or its predecessors had acquired from user and registration in the United States. The rights of Suter, Hartmann & Co. to the exclusive use of these words had been disclaimed by them in 1883, long before any assignment of their rights to the respondent, and we do not see why that disclaimer should be confined to England. It was a general disclaimer of any right whatever to the exclusive use of these words, and it was only upon the filing of that disclaimer that they obtained the trade-mark which they did in England. The disclaimer, however, was as broad as it could be made. When they assigned their rights the assignment did not include a right to an exclusive use which, in order to obtain the trade-mark registration, they had already disclaimed. The assignment of the Rehtjen firm could not convey the exclusive right to the use of such words, because they had no valid trade-mark in those words prior to 1873, and by the expiration of the English patent, in 1880, the right to that use had become public. These various assignors, therefore, did not convey by their assignment a right to the exclusive use of the words in the United States. The domestic trade-mark, which the respondent also claims gives it that right, was not used until after the sale of

[ 183 U.S. Page 13]

     the composition by the petitioner in the United States under the name of "Rahtjen's Composition, Holzapfel's Manufacture." We think the principle which prohibits the right to the exclusive use of a name descriptive of the article after the expiration of a patent covering its manufacture applies here.

In the manufacture and sale of the article, of course, no deceit would be tolerated, and the article described as "Rahtjen's Composition" would, when manufactured by defendant, have to be plainly described as its manufacture. The proof shows this has been done, and that the article has been sold under a totally different trade-mark from any used by respondent, and it has been plainly and fully described as manufactured by defendant or its assignors, the Holzapfels.

We are of the opinion that no right to the exclusive use in the United States of the words "Rahtjen's Composition" has been shown by respondent, and that the decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit should be reversed, and that of the Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York affirmed, and it is so ordered.


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