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UNITED STATES v. UNIVIS LENS CO.

decided: May 11, 1942.

UNITED STATES
v.
UNIVIS LENS CO., INC. ET AL.*FN*



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Byrnes; Jackson took no part in the consideration or decision of these cases.

Author: Stone

[ 316 U.S. Page 242]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases come here on direct appeal and cross appeal from a judgment of the District Court granting in part and denying in part the Government's prayer for an injunction

[ 316 U.S. Page 243]

     restraining violations of §§ 1 and 3 of the Sherman Act, 15 U. S. C. §§ 1, 3, which make unlawful any contract, combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce among the states. The principal questions for decision are:

First : Whether the system established and maintained by the Univis Corporation, appellee and cross appellant, for licensing the manufacture and sale of patented multifocal eyeglass lenses is excluded by the patent monopoly from the operation of the Sherman Act.

Second : Whether if not so excluded the resale price provisions of the licensing system are within the prohibition of the Sherman Act and not exempted from it by the provisions of the Miller-Tydings Act amendment of § 1 of the Sherman Act, 50 Stat. 693.

Appellee, Univis Lens Company, was the owner of a number of patents and two trademarks relating to multifocal lenses. In 1931 it organized appellee, Univis Corporation. The Lens Company then acquired and now holds a majority of the stock of the Corporation. The individual appellees are the principal stockholders of the Lens Company. They are stockholders in the Corporation and are the principal officers of both corporations, which may for the purposes of this suit be treated as though they were a single corporation. Upon the organization of the Corporation, the Lens Company transferred to it all its interest in the patents and trademarks presently involved, and the Corporation then proceeded to set up and has since maintained the licensing system which the Government now assails.

The relevant features of the system are as follows: The Corporation licenses the Lens Company to manufacture lens blanks and to sell them to designated licensees of the Corporation, upon the Lens Company's payment to the Corporation of an agreed royalty of 50 cents a pair.

[ 316 U.S. Page 244]

     The lens blanks are rough opaque pieces of glass of suitable size, design and composition for use, when ground and polished, as multifocal lenses in eyeglasses. Each blank is composed of two or more pieces of glass of different refractive power, of such size, shape, and composition and so disposed that when fused together in the blank it is said to conform to the specifications and claims of some one of the Corporation's patents.

The Corporation also issues three classes of licenses -- licenses to wholesalers, to finishing retailers and to prescription retailers. The licenses to wholesalers authorize the licensees to purchase the blanks from the Lens Company, to finish them by grinding and polishing, and to sell them to prescription licensees only at prices fixed by the Corporation licensor. In finishing the lenses so as to make them an effective aid to vision of the prospective wearer, to whom the prescription retailer sells, it is necessary for the wholesaler, by grinding the blanks, to conform their curvatures to the prescription supplied by the retailer with his order. By the terms of the license the wholesalers are required to keep full accounts of all sales, showing the sales prices of lenses and the names of the purchasers, and to make them available to representatives of the Corporation.

The licenses to finishing retailers -- who purchase the blanks from the Lens Company, grind and polish them and adjust the lenses, in frames or supports, to the eyes of the consumers -- contain similar provisions. The retailers are licensed to purchase the blanks of the Lens Company and to sell them to their customers at prices prescribed by the Corporation licensor.

Both the licenses to wholesalers and to finishing retailers require the licensee to notify the Corporation "of any violation on the part of any jobbers or other licensees of the agreements respectively made by them with the Corporation, and to assist the Corporation in all possible ways

[ 316 U.S. Page 245]

     in securing evidence against, and enforcing its agreements with ...


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