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DUER v. CORBIN CABINET LOCK COMPANY.

decided: May 1, 1893.

DUER
v.
CORBIN CABINET LOCK COMPANY.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT.

Author: Brown

[ 149 U.S. Page 218]

 MR. JUSTICE BROWN delivered the opinion of the court.

The old and familiar style of furniture lock in use from time out of mind was enclosed in a shell or case, square or nearly so, and attached to a rectangular plate turned over at the top to form what is termed a selvedge, through which the bolt passed. A key-post also projected some distance beyond the back plate of the shell toward the front of the drawer. The lock so constructed was inserted in a rectangular mortise cut out to receive it, and secured to the drawer by four screws through the four corners of the broad front plate.

The peculiar shape of the cavity required the mortising to be done by hand, which took considerable time, and added largely to the expense of the furniture. Indeed, the lock itself in some instances cost less than the expense of mortising the recess to receive it. The need had been felt for a long time of a lock of such shape that it could be received into a rounded cavity, which was capable of being excavated by machinery.

This want was first met by a lock invented by one Gory, for which a patent was issued to him April 22, 1873, numbered 138,148. This patent consisted of "such a construction of the shell or frame of the lock that it is adapted to fasten itself within a routed cavity in the wood, and thus dispense with mortising and fastening screws." "The shell, A," siad the patentee, "is so constructed that upon each side of the rear face (and by the rear face is understood the face nearest the front of the drawer) an extension projection or wing, a, is formed, which, when snugly fitted into a corresponding depression, b, at each side of the routed cavity, B, serves to retain the lock securely in the routed cavity. In this way the recess for the reception of the lock for drawers or similar uses, instead of being a mortise necessarily cut by a slowly operating mortising machine, is an open sided recess made

[ 149 U.S. Page 219]

     almost instantly by the rapidly-revolving tool of a routing-machine or groover. . . . This improved form of lock, when driven snugly into a routed cavity such as is described, requires no fastening screws to hold it in place, and consequently reduces the expense of the lock and fastening in addition to the reduced cost of producing the cavity to receive it." This was the underlying patent of all similar devices, and while it never seems to have come into general use, subsequent patents have been merely improvements upon it.

The peculiar feature of his patent was not only in rounding the bottom of the lock so that it could be admitted into a cavity cut out by a revolving tool known as a router, but in making the cavity larger in the rear than in the front, so that a lock correspondingly shaped might be slipped into the cavity from above, and held there without the aid of screws.

While the single claim of this patent was confined to a lock whose frame is made with side extensions at the rear face, to enable the lock to be firmly secured in the routed cavity, several different forms of cavity are shown in the drawings, nearly all of which are dovetailed in such manner that the lock is received and held in position without the aid of other fastenings. This lock was a most ingenious device, and no doubt involved patentable novelty. Three-fourths of this patent now belong to the defendant. There was a difficulty with it, however, in the fact that the patentee took off all the projections from the old style of lock, including those of the broad front plate, through which the screws were inserted, which was cut off so as to be flush with the side of the shell, the projecting key-post which was cut flush with the face of the cap, and the top plate or selvedge through which the bolt is passed. It consisted merely of a shell fitted snugly upon all sides into a cavity routed out of the exact size to receive it. For these or other reasons, the lock never seems to have gone into general use. Indeed, the evidence is that it was never used at all.

Next in order of time is patent numbered 241,828, issued May 24, 1881, to Henry L. Spiegel. In this device "the back plate of the lock" (that is, the plate nearest the front of the

[ 149 U.S. Page 220]

     drawer) "is made to project on each side of the lock, and adapted to fit a groove or dovetail formed in the inner surface of the drawer front," the object of the improvement being to provide a lock which may be secured in its receptacle without the aid of screws.The lock shown was of the ordinary pattern, except that its back plate was provided with projecting edges, designed to fit in a groove and hold the lock fast. "It is obvious," said the patentee, "that the groove B may be made dovetailed, and the edges G of the back plate bent to a corresponding angle to fit therein, if desired." His claim was for a cabinet lock with its rear plate projecting beyond each side of the lock-case, and having the upper part of each projection bent toward the front plate, which front plate had a slit and strip, which, when the lock is forced home, was set into the wood by a hammer, and thus the lock was held from working out of its receptacle. This patent is also owned by the defendant.

His idea was in substance that of so constructing the lock that there should be a space between the front and rear plates to receive the walls of a routed mortise.Both the front and back plate, however, as well as the selvedge, were made rectangular, and hence the lock was no better adapted for insertion in a routed cavity than was the old-style lock. This lock also seems to have been a ...


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