Approximately 103 years ago (almost to the day), the Supreme court issued an opinion which we believe remains relevant. The opinion will likely be cited frequently this year in light of the Supreme Court’s future Westerngeco opinion (which we will hopefully read in June 2018), as well as in light of recent opinions regarding patent damages and apportionment.
This case has it all. Consider the following quotations by topic:
On foreign sales: Some of the drills, about 261, sold by the defendants, were sold in Canada, no part of the transaction occurring within the United States, and as to them there could be no recovery of either profits or damages. The right conferred by a patent under our law is confined to the United States and its territories (Rev. Stat. § 4884, Comp. Stat. 1913, § 9428), and infringement of this right cannot be predicated of acts wholly done in a foreign country.
Georgia Pacific Factor #1: So, had the plaintiff pursued a course of granting licenses to others to deal in articles embodying the invention, the established royalty could have been proved as indicative of the value of what was taken, and therefore as affording a basis for measuring the damages.
Georgia Pacific Factor #13: We think the evidence, although showing that the invention was meritorious and materially contributed to the value of the infringing drills as marketable machines, made it clear that their value was not entirely attributable to the invention, but was due in a substantial degree to the unpatented parts or features.
Apportionment: But as the drills were sold in completed and operative form, the profits resulting from the several parts were necessarily commingled. It was essential, therefore, that they be separated or apportioned between what was covered by the patent and what was not covered by it; for, as was said in Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co. v. Wagner Electric & Mfg. Co. supra (p. 615): ‘In such case, if plaintiff’s patent only created a part of the profits, he is only entitled to recover that part of the net gains.’
Georgia-Pacific Factor #15 or Profits for reasonable royalty damages: Of course, the result to be accomplished is a rational separation of the net profits so that neither party may have what rightfully belongs to the other, and it is important that the accounting be so conducted as to secure this result, if it be reasonably possible. As was said in Tilghman v. Proctor, 125 U. S. 136, 145, 31 L. ed. 664, 667, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 894: ‘It is inconsistent with the ordinary principles and practice of courts of chancery, either, on the one hand, to permit the wrongdoer to profit by his own wrong, or, on the other hand, to make no allowance for the cost and expense of conducting his business, or to undertake to punish him by obliging him to pay more than a fair compensation to the person wronged.’
Early Panduit or Lost profits proof: While the number of drills sold by the defendants was shown, there was no proof that the plaintiff thereby lost the sale of a like number of drills or of any definite or even approximate number. During the period of infringement several other manufacturers were selling drills in large numbers in the same localities in direct competition with the plaintiff’s drill, and under the evidence it could not be said that, if the sales in question had not been made, the defendants’ customers would have bought from the plaintiff rather than from the other manufacturers. Besides, it did not satisfactorily appear that the plaintiff possessed the means and facilities requisite for supplying the demands of its own customers and of those who purchased the infringing drills. There was therefore no adequate basis for an assessment of damages upon the ground of lost sales.
It is fun to see that a case over 100 years old may be so relevant.