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London v. Scott

Decided: October 17, 1991.

WALLACE LONDON AND CLEMCO PRODUCTS, INC., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
CARSON PIRIE SCOTT & CO., MARSHALL FIELD STORES, INC., W. BELL & CO., INC., AND SAMSONITE CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appealed from: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; Judge Nordberg.

Lourie, Circuit Judge, Skelton, Senior Circuit Judge, and Rader, Circuit Judge.

Lourie

LOURIE, Circuit Judge

Wallace London and Clemco Products, Inc. (London) appeal the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 85 C 9712 (January 3, 1991), granting summary judgment in favor of Carson Pirie Scott & Co., Marshall Field Stores, Inc., W. Bell & Co., Inc., and Samsonite Corporation (Samsonite), on a charge of infringement of certain claims of United States Patents 3,566,456 ('456) and Re. 31,075 ('075). We affirm.

BACKGROUND

Both the '456 patent and the '075 patent concern clamps used to hang clothes securely in travel garment bags. The '456 patent, issued on March 2, 1971, relates to a clamp with two metal channels, C-shaped in cross-section, positioned horizontally, with open edges facing one another and pivotally connected at one end by a hinge pin. Two strips of resilient material fit into the open edges of the channels. The clamp is adapted to grip the shank of a clothes hanger below the hook and contemplates that the hanger extends outside the garment bag. Claim 1, which is at issue along with dependent claim 2, reads:

1. A bifurcated clamp for embracing a plurality of garment hangers adapted to be positioned within a garment bag, each hanger having an upstanding shank between the supporting hook for the hanger and the support for the garment, and said upstanding shanks adapted to be spaced along the length of said clamp, said clamp comprising:

(a) a pair of congruous C-shaped channels pivotally mounted to each other at one end thereof, with the open edge of each channel facing the other.

(b) a strip of resilient material seated within each channel and protruding beyond the open edge thereof, and

(c) a latching device on the opposite free ends of said channels for alternately permitting the spreading of said channels or the clamping thereof together for embracing the spaced shanks of the spaced garment hangers to attain an integrated assembly thereof, at least one of said channels having fastening means thereon to permit the ready affixation thereof to the garment bag to provide a tight seal for the bag and reliable support for the garment hangers therein.

The '075 patent also claims a clamp to hold clothes hangers together inside a garment bag. Unlike the '456 patent, however, the clamping jaws of the '075 patent are positioned vertically, not horizontally. Also, a reinforcing sleeve surrounds the hinge pin between the internal surfaces of the channels. The clamp is operated by inserting the hook portion of a clothes hanger between the two resilient strips when the device is open. After the hook is inserted, the lower channel is rotated upwardly around the hingepin to close the clamp. The latching device holds the hanger in place.

Although both Claims 1 and 9 of the '075 patent are appealed, claim 9 is representative*fn1 and it reads as follows:

9. In a frame type garment bag assembly having means on the outside of the top thereof for suspending the bag while loading therein or unloading therefrom a plurality of garments on supports therefor, each comprising a vertical wire shank extending upwardly from the center of the support and terminating in a downwardly extending curved hook portion, and means for securely locking a plurality of the garment supports entirely within the bag, the improvement comprising:

(a) a jointed clamp disposed in a generally vertical plane and having an upper channel fixed to the top of the garment bag and a lower channel pivotally mounted to said upper channel at one end thereof, ...


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