The controversy between the parties in this court is confined to questions relating to the title of the defendants in error under the extended patent of August 23, 1860, alleged to have been infringed by the plaintiffs in error. The instruction given, and those refused by the court below, which are brought under review, must be examined in the light of the facts which the bill of exceptions discloses. Before proceeding to consider the main questions in the case, we deem it proper to dispose of others arising upon the record in regard to which we have found no difficulty and entertain no doubt.
The deed of Isaac R. Trimble of the 30th of May, 1861, conveyed all his rights under the patent, whatever they may have been, to the grantees in that instrument. If his title was sufficient, theirs is so. This was not controverted by the counsel for the plaintiffs in error, and needs no further remark.
The assignment of the 11th of June, 1864, to Aaron E. Burton, made by John E. Shaw, as receiver appointed in the
If Trimble at the date of that deed held the title under the extended patent, which the defendants in error insist he had, the deed of confirmation to him from Howe's administrator, of the 18th of September, 1854, touching the patent of 1846, extended by the one in question, was inoperative and useless. It was referred to in the argument, as showing the construction put by the parties upon the deed of Howe to Trimble of the 9th of July, 1844. Where there is doubt as to the proper construction of an instrument, this feature of the case is entitled to great consideration. But where its meaning is clear in the eye of the law, the error of the parties cannot control its effect. In this view of the subject, conceding that Trimble took this conveyance, not out of abundant caution and to solve in his favor a doubt which might otherwise possibly arise against him, but because he deemed it necessary to give him a title which he did not already possess, his legal rights in this controversy are just what they would have been if that instrument had not been executed.
If the construction given to the deed of Howe by the counsel for the defendants in error be correct, and no part of the title vested in Trimble by that deed passed to Daniel Stone by the agreement of the 30th of September, 1846, between him and Trimble, as the counsel for the defendants in error insist, there was nothing for the deed of Howe's
This brings us to the examination of the deed of Howe to Trimble, and of the agreement between Trimble and Stone. They are the hinges upon which the controversy turns. The stress of the argument on both sides was properly confined to these subjects in their several aspects of fact and of law.
The deed from Howe recites that he had obtained from the United States two patents for new and useful improvements in the construction of truss bridges and other structures, one dated on the 10th of July, the other on the 3d of August, in the year 1840. The instrument is a deed poll. After setting out the consideration, it proceeds as follows: "I have assigned, sold, and set over, and do hereby assign, sell, and set over, all the right, title, and interest which I have in said invention, as secured to me by said letters-patent, and also all right, title, and interest which may be secured to me for alterations and improvements on the same from time to time, for, to, and in the following states, viz.," &c... . "the same to be held and enjoyed by the said I.R. Trimble for his own use and behoof, and for the use and behoof of his legal representatives to the full end of the term for which said letters-patent are or may be granted, as fully and entirely as the same would have been held and enjoyed by me had this assignment and sale not have been made." A careful analysis of these provisions eliminates the following results: Howe assigns to Trimble all his title and interest in the inventions secured to him by the two patents mentioned, in respect to the territory specified, and also all the right and title which should be secured to him for alterations and improvements in the inventions, from time to time thereafter, for the same territory, to be held and enjoyed by Trimble to the full end of the terms for which patents had been theretofore, or might be thereafter, granted, in all respects as they would have been held and enjoyed by the assignor if the assignment had not been made.
The effect of such a contract, we think, has been settled by this court in Gayler v. Wilder and others.
In this connection our attention has been called by the counsel for the plaintiffs in error to Wilson v. Rousseau,
It remains to consider the contract between Trimble and Daniel Stone.
This clause follows:
"And the said Isaac R. Trimble, in consideration of the said payments, promises, and agreements on the part of the said Daniel Stone as aforesaid, for and on the part of himself, the said Isaac R. Trimble, and his heirs, executors, and administrators, covenants and agrees, and by these presents doth covenants and agree, to sell and transfer, and doth hereby sell and transfer unto the said Daniel Stone, his heirs, executors, and administrators, the one equal moiety or half-part of all the right, title, claim, and interest of him, the said Isaac R. Trimble, of, in, and to the patent-right aforesaid, which he purchased as aforesaid of the said William Howe, the sale heretofore made to Reading excepted."
A copartnership between the parties in the business of building bridges under Howe's patents was then entered into, and it was agreed that if either party should at any time desire a dissolution, Trimble should name a sum which he would be willing to give or take for a moiety of the rights which he acquired from Howe, including the payments to Howe, and that Stone should thereupon decide whether he would buy or sell. It was further provided that the copartnership might be dissolved at the expiration of six months after notice by either party.
Trimble was examined as a witness, and testified as follows: Stone never made any of the payments which he was required to make by the contract. By common consent of the parties, the contract never went into operation in any way, because Stone was unable to comply with any of his engagements. Trimble was compelled to pay, and did pay, the full amount of the instalments still due on his contract with Howe. Stone during his lifetime never claimed any right under the contract; but, on the contrary, always recognized Trimble's exclusive right to the interest referred to in the agreement, and acted as Trimble's agent in building
The agreement was recorded in the Patent Office on the 27th of July, 1864, after Stone's death, and more than eighteen years after the date of its execution.
The words, "and do hereby sell and transfer," found in the copy from the Patent Office, which was used in evidence in the court below, are not in the copy annexed to the bill filed in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. But, conceding that they were in the contract as executed, and that the contract had the same effect in transferring to Stone a moiety of Trimble's rights and interests, which Trimble's contract with Howe had in transferring the whole to Trimble, then a question arose for the jury as to the effect of the facts disclosed in Trimble's testimony. Upon the trial the court, at the request of the plaintiffs, charged the jury in effect, that if they found the facts to be as testified by Trimble, the contract between Trimble and Stone "was not to be regarded as passing any title to Stone, which the defendant was entitled to set up in connection with any other evidence in the cause as a bar to the right of the plaintiffs to recover," provided they found also the execution and delivery of Trimble's deed to his co-plaintiffs. To this instruction the plaintiffs in error excepted.
If the facts were as alleged by Trimble, his contract with Stone was stillborn. It never had any vitality. Neither the legal representative of Stone nor any one in privity with him asserts its validity in this litigation. It is vicariously put forward by the plaintiffs in error. They seek to give it life and vigor, and invoke its aid for their protection.
If a deed of real estate be executed and recorded, primâ facie it conveys the legal title; but if it be shown it was not delivered, that destroys its effect.
The plaintiffs in error submitted eight prayers for instructions. The 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th, were refused. The refusal was excepted to. Some of the points which they present were not insisted upon in the argument at the bar. The others are sufficiently answered by what has already been said.
Mr. Justice BRADLEY dissented, on the ground that there was not enough language in the assignment of Howe to Trimble to show that a transfer of the extension was intended.