The Telephone Cases

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The Telephone Cases
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 24–28, 31, February 1–4, 7–8, 1887
Decided March 19, 1888
Full case nameDolbear v. American Bell Telephone Company; Molecular Telephone Company v. American Bell Telephone Company; American Bell Telephone Company v. Molecular Telephone Company; Clay Commercial Telephone Company v. American Bell Telephone Company; People's Telephone Company v. American Bell Telephone Company; Overland Telephone Company v. American Bell Telephone Company
Citations126 U.S. 1 ( more )
8 S. Ct. 778; 31 L. Ed. 863
Holding
The Bell Company patent was valid and that the Molecular case was reversed.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Morrison Waite
Associate Justices
Samuel F. Miller  · Stephen J. Field
Joseph P. Bradley  · John M. Harlan
Stanley Matthews  · Horace Gray
Samuel Blatchford  · Lucius Q. C. Lamar II
Case opinions
MajorityWaite, joined by Miller, Matthews, Blatchford
DissentBradley, joined by Field, Harlan
Gray and Lamar took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

The Telephone Cases, 126 U.S. 1 (1888), were a series of U.S. court cases in the 1870s and 1880s related to the invention of the telephone, which culminated in the 1888 decision of the United States Supreme Court upholding the priority of the patents belonging to Alexander Graham Bell. Those telephone patents were relied on by the American Bell Telephone Company and the Bell System—although they had also acquired critical microphone patents from Emile Berliner.

Invention of the telephone

The invention of the telephone was the culmination of work done by many individuals, and led to an array of lawsuits relating to the patent claims of several individuals and numerous companies. The first telephone was invented by Antonio Meucci, but Alexander Graham Bell is credited with the development of the first practical telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell scientist and inventor known for his work on the telephone

Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer, and innovator who is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. He also founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885.

Bell Telephone Company

The Bell Telephone Company, a common law joint stock company, was organized in Boston, Massachusetts on July 9, 1877, by Alexander Graham Bell's father-in-law Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who also helped organize a sister company — the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. The Bell Telephone Company was started on the basis of holding "potentially valuable patents", principally Bell's master telephone patent #174465.

Contents

The objector (or plaintiff) in the notable Supreme Court case was initially the Western Union telegraph company, which was at the time a far larger and better financed competitor than American Bell Telephone. Western Union advocated several more recent patent claims of Daniel Drawbaugh, Elisha Gray, Antonio Meucci and Philip Reis in a bid to invalidate Alexander Graham Bell's master and subsidiary telephone patents dating back to March 1876. Had Western Union succeeded it would have immediately destroyed the Bell Telephone Company and then Western Union stood to become the world's largest telecommunications monopoly in Bell's place.

A plaintiff is the party who initiates a lawsuit before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy; if this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of the plaintiff and make the appropriate court order. "Plaintiff" is the term used in civil cases in most English-speaking jurisdictions, the notable exception being England and Wales, where a plaintiff has, since the introduction of the Civil Procedure Rules in 1999, been known as a "claimant", but that term also has other meanings. In criminal cases, the prosecutor brings the case against the defendant, but the key complaining party is often called the "complainant".

The Western Union Company is an American financial services and communications company. Its headquarters is in Meridian, Colorado, although the postal designation of nearby Englewood is used in its mailing address. Up until it discontinued the service in 2006, Western Union was the best-known U.S. company in the business of exchanging telegrams.

Daniel Drawbaugh was a purported inventor of the telephone for which he sought a patent in 1880. His claims were contested by the Bell Telephone Company, which won a court decision in 1888.

The U.S. Supreme Court came within one vote of overturning the Bell patent, thanks to the eloquence of lawyer Lysander Hill for the Peoples Telephone Company. [1] In a lower court, the Peoples Telephone Company stock rose briefly during the early proceedings, but dropped after their claimant Daniel Drawbaugh took the stand and drawled: "I don’t remember how I came to it. I had been experimenting in that direction. I don’t remember of getting at it by accident either. I don’t remember of anyone talking to me of it". [1]

Supreme Court of the United States Highest court in the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a small range of cases, such as suits between two or more states, and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions. Each year it agrees to hear about 100–150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review.

In this case the court affirmed several other lower court cases: Dolbear et al. v American Bell Tel. Co., 15 Fed. Rep 448, 17 Fed. Rep. 604, Molecular Te. Co. et al. v American Bell Tel. Co. 32 Fed. Rep 214, People's Tel. Co. et al. v American Bell Tel. Co., 22 Fed. Rep. 309 and 25 Fed. Rep. 725. Well reversing American Bell Tel Co. et al. v Molecular Tel. Co et al. 32 Fed Rep. 214.

Bell’s second fundamental patent expired on January 30, 1894, at which time the gates were then opened to independent telephone companies to compete with the Bell System. In all, the American Bell Telephone Company and its successor, AT&T, litigated 587 court challenges to its patents including five that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and aside from two minor contract lawsuits, never lost a single one that was concluded with a final stage judgment. [1] [2]

AT&T Corporation Subsidiary of AT&T that provides voice, video, data, and Internet telecommunications

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Size

The Court's decision in the Telephone Cases is notable for the size of the opinions delivered; together, they occupy the entire 126th volume of the United States Reports .

<i>United States Reports</i> official record of the rulings, orders, case tables, and other proceedings of the Supreme Court of the United States

The United States Reports are the official record of the rulings, orders, case tables, in alphabetical order both by the name of the petitioner and by the name of the respondent, and other proceedings of the Supreme Court of the United States. United States Reports, once printed and bound, are the final version of court opinions and cannot be changed. Opinions of the court in each case are prepended with a headnote prepared by the Reporter of Decisions, and any concurring or dissenting opinions are published sequentially. The Court's Publication Office oversees the binding and publication of the volumes of United States Reports, although the actual printing, binding, and publication are performed by private firms under contract with the United States Government Publishing Office.

Notable cases

Among the notable court cases involving the Bell Telephone Company, later renamed to the American Bell Telephone Company, were those related to challenges by Elisha Gray, a principal in Western Electric, as depicted in the Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell telephone controversy.

Elisha Gray American electrical engineer

Elisha Gray was an American electrical engineer who co-founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Company. Gray is best known for his development of a telephone prototype in 1876 in Highland Park, Illinois. Some recent authors have argued that Gray should be considered the true inventor of the telephone because Alexander Graham Bell allegedly stole the idea of the liquid transmitter from him, although Gray had been using liquid transmitters in his telephone experiments for more than two years previously. Bell's telephone patent was upheld in numerous court decisions.

Western Electric Company was an American electrical engineering and manufacturing company that served as the primary supplier to AT&T from 1881 to 1996, and to the local Bell Operating Companies until 1984. The company was responsible for many technological innovations and seminal developments in industrial management. It also served as the purchasing agent for the member companies of the Bell System.

The Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell controversy concerns the question of whether Gray and Bell invented the telephone independently. This issue is narrower than the question of who deserves credit for inventing the telephone, for which there are several claimants.

Additionally the Bell Company became embroiled in a number of challenges from those companies associated with Antonio Meucci, as shown in the Canadian Parliamentary Motion on Alexander Graham Bell, itself a response to the United States HRes. 269 on Antonio Meucci.

See also

Related Research Articles

Telephone telecommunications device

A telephone, or phone, is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic signals that are transmitted via cables and other communication channels to another telephone which reproduces the sound to the receiving user.

Johann Philipp Reis German scientist and inventor

Johann Philipp Reis was a self-taught German scientist and inventor. In 1861, he constructed the first make-and-break telephone, today called the Reis telephone.

Antonio Meucci an Italian inventor and an associate of Giuseppe Garibaldi

Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci was an Italian inventor and an associate of Giuseppe Garibaldi. Meucci is best known for developing a voice-communication apparatus that several sources credit as the first telephone.

This timeline of the telephone covers landline, radio, and cellular telephony technologies and provides many important dates in the history of the telephone.

Amos Dolbear American physicist

Amos Emerson Dolbear was an American physicist and inventor. Dolbear researched electrical spark conversion into sound waves and electrical impulses. He was a professor at University of Kentucky in Lexington from 1868 until 1874. In 1874 he became the chair of the physics department at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. He is known for his 1882 invention of a system for transmitting telegraph signals without wires. In 1899 his patent for it was purchased in an unsuccessful attempt to interfere with Guglielmo Marconi's wireless telegraphy patents in the United States.

History of the telephone aspect of history relating to telephones

This history of the telephone chronicles the development of the electrical telephone, and includes a brief review of its predecessors.

Acoustic telegraphy was a name for various methods of multiplexing telegraph messages simultaneously over a single telegraph wire by using different audio frequencies or channels for each message. A telegrapher used a conventional Morse key to tap out the message in Morse code. The key pulses were transmitted as pulses of a specific audio frequency. At the receiving end a device tuned to the same frequency resonated to the pulses but not to others on the same wire.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to telecommunication:

A patent caveat, often shortened to caveat, was a legal document filed with the United States Patent Office. Caveats were instituted by the U.S. Patent Act of 1836, but were discontinued in 1909, with the U.S. Congress abolishing the system formally in 1910. A caveat was similar to a patent application with a description of an invention and drawings, but without examination for patentable subject matter and without a requirement for patent claims. A patent caveat was an official notice of intention to file a patent application at a later date. A caveat expired after one year, but could be renewed by paying an annual fee of $10.

A water microphone or water transmitter is based on Ohm's law that current in a wire varies inversely with the resistance of the circuit. The sound waves from a human voice cause a diaphragm to vibrate which causes a needle or rod to vibrate up and down in water that has been made conductive by a small amount of acid. As the needle or rod vibrates up and down in the water, the resistance of the water fluctuates which causes alternating current in the circuit. For this to work, the resistance of the water must vary substantially over the short distance the needle or rod vibrates. Acidulated water works well because only a small amount of acid is added. If one millimeter of acidulated water has a resistance of 100 ohms, two millimeters would have 200 ohms which would produce enough alternating current to transmit audio signals in thousands of feet of wire. Mercury will not work because the resistance of one millimeter of mercury is less than a tenth of an ohm and vibration of a needle in mercury would produce negligible alternating current.

These are some of the links to articles that are telephone related.

Anthony Pollok was an American patent attorney who, with Marcellus Bailey, helped prepare Alexander Graham Bell's patents for the telephone and related inventions.

Canadian Parliamentary Motion on Alexander Graham Bell

The first session of Canada's 37th Parliament unanimously passed a Canadian Parliamentary Motion on Alexander Graham Bell on June 21, 2002, to affirm that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone.

United States HRes. 269 on Antonio Meucci

The 107th United States Congress resolution of June 11, 2002, recognized the contributions of Antonio Meucci. This was interpreted by some as establishing priority for the invention of the telephone to Meucci. The House of Representatives' resolution did not annul or modify any of Bell's patents for the telephone.

Enos Melancthon Barton was an American electrical engineer who, with Elisha Gray, co-founded Western Electric Manufacturing Company.

References

Notes
  1. 1 2 3 Billings, A. Bell and the Early Independents, Telephone Engineer and Management, March 15, 1985, pp87-89,
  2. Australasian Telephone Collecting Society. Who Really Invented The Telephone?, ATCS, Moorebank, NSW, Australia. Retrieved from www.telephonecollecting.org website on April 22, 2011.
Bibliography

Further reading

The Edison National Historical Park (ENHP) archives has seven bound volumes and one pamphlet of Patent Office proceedings relating to conflicting claims over who invented the telephone. Four of these volumes contain the record of a group of interferences entitled Cases A through L and Case No. 1. The disputant parties were Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray, A. E. Dolbear, J. W. McDonough, George B. Richmond, William L. Voelker, J. H. Irwin, and Francis Blake, Jr. Although Edison's preliminary statements were filed in September 1878, testimony was not taken until 1880. This record was printed in 1881. The second volume contains Edison's exhibits, including photo-lithographs of laboratory drawings, patents and patent applications, and newspaper and journal articles. The drawings have exhibit numbers corresponding to a page/volume numbering scheme used by Edison and his patent attorney Lemuel W. Serrell in 1880 when Edison's technical notes and drawings were numbered and examined for possible inclusion as exhibits in these interferences. Many of the documents in this numbered series were not selected as exhibits; they remain in the archives at the Edison National Historical Park....