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The Litigation Series contains the printed records of civil court litigation, along with the records of Patent Office interferences, which are similar in many respects to litigation. These records consist of pleadings, testimony, exhibits, attorneys' briefs and arguments, and decisions and opinions of the court or hearing examiner.
During the 1880s Edison was involved in several patent interferences relating to his work in electric lighting. Of particular importance is the interference with William E. Sawyer and Albon Man over Edison's carbon lamp application (case 187). A related application, issued as U.S. Patent 223,898, later moved to the federal courts as a patent infringement suit brought by the Edison Electric Light Co. (see below). All of the remaining interferences also concern electric light patents, except for one interference with Henry C. Nicholson regarding duplex telegraph patents. The patent interferences provide valuable information about Edison's work in electric lighting and power, electric traction, and duplex telegraphy, as well as documentation about the operation of the Menlo Park Laboratory. All of the interferences have been selected except for a handwritten copy of the testimony on behalf of Edward Weston in an interference over the electrical transmission of power. Another set of patent interferences from the 1880s, relating to conflicting claims over telephone inventions, can be found in Thomas A. Edison Papers, Part I (1850-1878).
The printed court records for the period 1879-1886 pertain to four separate cases. The earliest case involves a suit brought against Edison in 1880 by Lucy Seyfert. Mrs. Seyfert was the widow of an investor in the Automatic Telegraph Co. who had loaned Edison money as part of a business arrangement regarding Edison's automatic telegraph patents. She brought suit against Edison in order to collect on a promissory note. The testimony in this case provides insight into Edison's relations with his financial backers and his financial difficulties during the mid-1870s.
The patent infringement suit against Sawyer and ManEdison Electric Light Company v. United States Electric Lighting Companywas the most important piece of electric light litigation brought by the Edison interests and the only electric light suit initiated prior to 1887. Included as exhibits in this case are parts of the printed records from the earlier patent interference (Sawyer and Man v. Edison) and from two contemporary electric light casesConsolidated Electric Light Company v. McKeesport Light Company (the "McKeesport Case") and Edison Electric Light Company v. Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Company (the "Trenton Feeder Case"). Together, these records constitute a particularly valuable source for documenting Edison's work in electric lighting.
Two related patent infringement suits were brought by the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Co., Ltd. against the partnership of Woodhouse & Rawson. These suits were argued strictly on technical points concerning the validity of the various patents. Another British infringement case concerns the telephone patents of Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. The arguments in this case were also narrowly confined to technical issues regarding the validity of the patents. Beyond documenting Edison's patent claims, these British cases do not provide insight into Edison or his work, and they have not been selected.
The Litigation Series comprises the following documents: