Industry News

1929: Mr. Barnes and Mr. Richardson Argue Bakelite at U.S. Supreme Court

1929


Bakelite involved a decision of the Tariff Commission that certain imported products violated U.S. patent rights and should be excluded from the country. Today, these are known as Section 337 cases. The firm successfully represented Bakelite, the U.S. patent holder, at the Commission. The more contentious issue was the nature of the Court of Customs Appeals, which is the predecessor of the current Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. When the importers appealed the Commission decision, Mr. Barnes and Mr. Richardson asked the Supreme Court to stop the proceedings on the ground that there was no constitutional case or controversy. The “case or controversy” requirement applies to courts established under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The question, therefore, was whether the Court of Customs Appeals was a “constitutional court” or a court created by Congress under Article I to implement regulations. The Supreme Court held that the Court of Customs Appeals was created to resolve disputes that had previously been delegated to executive officers of the government. The Supreme Court, therefore, held that the Court of Customs Appeals was an Article I court that could act without a constitutional case or controversy. Today, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Court of International Trade are both firmly placed under Article III with all the powers of the corresponding district courts or circuit courts of appeal.