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THE POST MASTER GENERAL,
Information in relation to the claims to the invention for postmarking and
postage-stump canceling, in use in the postal serrice.
MARCH 1, 1871.-Referred to the Committee on Post Offices and Post Rolls and
ordered to be printeil.
POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT,
Washington, February 27, 1871. SIR: By a joint resolution of Congress approved July 14, 1870, the Postmaster General is authorized and directed to investigate the right and title of claimants to the invention, device, or instruments for the postmarking and postage-stamp canceling in the postal service, patented on the 11th day of April, 1863, reissued the 230 day of August, 1864, and again reissued the 3d day of August, 1869, and now and for many years past in general use in the postal service of the United States; and to ascertain and determine upon a fair, just, and equitable compensation for the use of the said invention and device, from the date of its use by the Post Office Department, and also to ascertain and determine npon a fair and equitable compensation for its future use and value to the Post Otlice Department and Government, while the said letters. patent shall continue, and to whom it should be paid under the said letterspatent and reissues thereof'; and to report the amount thus ascertained and determined to Congress at its next session. (See Pamplulet Laws, 41st Congress, 2d session, page 68.)
In endeavoring to carry this resolution into effect, I have given every reasonable opportunity to all parties in interest to present their claims. They have been fully beard, in person and by counsel, when they have presented themselves for the purpose, and the hearing has been repeateilly postponed, on the applications of the claimants, to allow them every facility in procuring their testimony.
The patent referred to in the above-mentioned resolution of Congress was issued to Marcus P. Norton, as No. 38,175, on the 14th April, 1863; reissued to his assignees as No. 1,748, on the 230 August, 1864; again reissued to him as No. 3,586, on the 3d August, 1869; and again reissued, since the date of the private resolution of Congress, as No. 4,143, on the 4th October, 1870, to Helen M. Ingalls, assignee of Marcus P.
It appears from the certified abstract of title furnished by the Commissioner of Patents, that the original patent of 1863 was assigned by Marcus P. Norton, on the 20th of April, 1863, to Jacob Shavor and Albert C. Corse; that on the 230 day of February, 1864, they reassigned to said Norton; and that on the 2011 October, 1869, he assigned his entire interest in the invention, and all right to compensation for the use of the same by the United States, to Helen VI, Ingalls. She afterward surrendered the letters-patent and procured a reissue thereof in her own name, in two parts, or divisious, of which Division A is identical with the reissueil patent of 1869. It is believed that this action of the Patent Office vests the title of the patent of 1863, and the subsequent reissues to Norton, in Helen M. Ingalls.
Other letters patent were issued to Peter Low and F. G. Ransförid, as assignees of Marcus P. Norton, on the 9th day of August, 1879, 1or a post-marking and postage-stamp canceling (levice, in which a post-marking stamp is shown with a steel cutter attached, having sharp cutting edges to cut and mutilate the adhesive stamp. It seems that a number of stamps made after the plan suggested in that patent were tried by the Department and condemneil is unfit for use, because of the injury done to the contents of letters.
In 1862, Mr. Norton took out letters-patent for an allegel improves ment on the 1859 stamp, in which the attempt was made to provide against the injury done by the cutter, by combining therewith guards to limit the depth of the cui; but I can find no evidence that this statin was ever used by the Department.
The stamp patented in 1863 has been in use in the Department, and furnished by contractors, under contracts commencing Apul 1, 1863, and April 1, 1867, each for four years. No other stamp appears to have b*n used in the Department containing this combination for postmarking and canceling at one and the same blow, except experimentally, all the cut ting cancelers having been rejected as worthless.
A claim has been set up by Messrs. Peter Low, F. P. Ransfor, and William B. llatch to a share of any compensation that may be paid for the use of the patent of 1803, founded upon the allegation that the machine made under the patent of 1863 is subject to and infringes the patent of 1859. This question of title and the rights of the parties claiming compensation for the use of the combined stamp and canceled is one that, in my judgment, can only be properly settled by judicial authority; and hence I feel unwilling to take the responsibility of de ciding it. While there can be 10 question that the canceler covered by the patent of 1863 is the one the Department has been using and is still using, I do not feel anthorized by the aforesaiil joint resolution to undertake to decide whether it is subject to and infringes the patent of 1859, as has been alleged. When the joint resolution was adopted it was not probably known to Congress that there were parties who claimed a share of compensation for the use of the patent of 18.79; and I think it my duty now to submit the whole matter, with all the evidence, in the end that Congress may pursue such course as justice demands in the settlement of the rights of the several claimants.
The combined stamp has been demonstrated, by continuous ilise during nearly eight years, to be valuable in the larger post offices and in the railway service. Simple as it is, no other device has been hit upon that will do the work of this one without adding largely to the number of stamping clerks employed, and consequently increasing the expenses of the Department. It is impossible to estimate, with any degree of accuracy, the amount of money which has been or which may be saved by its use. Since the 1st day of April, 1863, the number of these stamps purchased by the Department is 3,707, as will more fully appear by a detailed statement herewith filed, marked i. Nothing has been paid by
the Government to any one as royalty for the use of the invention. Although I indorse its usefulness in decided terms, I am obliged to await an authoritative settlement of title before expressing an opinion as to the amount of money that should be paid for its use, or as to the manner and proportion of its distribution.
I submit with the accompanying exhibits an application made by the Hon. Horatio King for a share, in satisfaction of his services as an attorney to Mr. Norton, of whatever compensation may be allowed. Claims of this character do not appear to come within the scope of the resolution: I nevertheless, at his request, forward his papers, with an affidavit of Mr. Norton in relation thereto.
The House Post Office Committee has also presented certain papers tiled by Mr. C. E. Wheeler, in which he claims to have invented the combined postmarking and canceling stamp known as the Norton stamp, and charges that the patent for the same was improperly given to Mr. Norton. A certificate, issued by the Commissioner of Patents, shows that on the 12th of September, 1863, Mr. Wheeler tiled an application for letters-patent, which on the 21st of September was rejected on a reference to Mr. Norton's patents, and that on the 10th of December, 1863, the ('ommissioner refused to grant Wheeler's application for an interference with Norton's patent of 1859. This seems to have ended Mr. Wheeler's case. The papers relating to it are, however, herewith inclosed.
Another paper, dated February 23, 1871, has been filed by llelen M. Ingalls, the owner by assignment and reissue of the patent of April 14, 1863, notifying the Department that the postmarking and canceling device now used in the postal service has been manufactured under a parol license, granted to the contractor in 1867, and subject to the right of the inventor to claim compensation therefor from the United States; that the contract and parol license to manufacture said stamps terminates on the 1st day of April, 1871; and that the Department has invited proposals for a new contract for similar stamps. (See advertisement filed with accompanying exhibits, which fixes the time of the letting of said contract on the 1st day of March next.)
Miss Ingalls proceeds to give the Department notice that unless a just compensation for the past use of this device is made and a contract entered into with her for the right to use it, she will, after the 1st day of April next, invoke the interposition of the courts of the United States to enjoin any contractor, not properly licensed by her, from manufacturing any stamps covered by any of the patents originally issued to Mar. (us P. Norton, and now held by her as assignee; and further, that she will in like manner seek to enjoin the postmasters now using said combined stamps and cancels from the further use thereof, the license and authority heretofore given having been conditional and not absolute; and that, unless said conditions are complied with upon the part of the United States, in mamer aforesaid, the license to make and use said stamps shall stand revoked.
Accompanying this report will be found all the testimony taken in this investigation, together with the exhibits filed, with a schedule of the same.
Submitting the whole matter for the consideration of Congress, I have the honor to be, with great respect,
JOIN A. J. CRESWELL,
Postmaster General. Hon. SCHUYLER COLFAX, Vice President Unitad States.