[D8749AAF], Letter from U.S. Justice Dept. Solicitor General to Thomas Alva Edison, April 18th, 1887


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[D8749AAF], Letter from U.S. Justice Dept. Solicitor General to Thomas Alva Edison, April 18th, 1887

Editor's Notes

"I am charged in my official capacity with the conduct of the suit recently instituted in the name of the United States vs. The American Bell Telephone Co., to test the validity of patents Nos. 174,465 and 186,487 granted to Alexander G. Bell, and dated respectively on the 7th of March 1876 and on the 15th of January 1877. It is clamed on the aprt of the patentee and his assigns that these two patents cover substantially the entire art of telephony, and under them the American Bell Telephone Co. has claimed and thus far secured the monopoly of telephone operations throughout the country. It is important, therefore, to ascertain all the facts connected with their grant and insurance, in order that the government may inflict no injustice in the prosecution of the suit which is commenced. The information on that subject now before this Department induces a grave doubt as to who in reality inveted the telephone as to whether or not the credit of having done so was rightly awarded to Alexander G. Bell in the judicial and other proceedings through which hitherto the exclusive use of electricity in telephony has been maintained. These questions would seem to have been presented and decided in favor of Prof. Bell in two contests to which you were a party, namely: in the suit of The American Bell Telephone Co. vs. Peter A. Dowd, and in the telephone interferences had in the Patent Office, but from some facts connected with these cases, it would seem that they were both conducted in the interest of the claimant of the Bell patent and that the decisions rendered in them would not be entitled to be considered as the result of hostile contests on the issues involved. It appears as a matter of record in the Patent Office that previous to the adjudications had in the cases referred to, The American Bell Telephone Co. had become the owner by assignment of all the patents issued to you and applications for patents filed by you which were involved in the intereference proceedings, and this seems to be true also as to most of the other parties, so that in fact The American Bell Telephone Co. had the right to control the entire controversy. ## In order to enable the counsel for the Government to judge intelligently in this regard, I would desire, if consistent with your sense of propriety, to have answers from you to the following questions: First. Were you a real party in interest to the Dowd suit or to the telephone interferences, or were you a mere nominal party and represented by the Western Union Telegraph Co. or the American Bell Telephone Co? Second. Did you have any active personal connection or supervision of these cases, or either of them? Third. Did you employ and pay counsel to represent you, or was the counsel who appeared for you employed and paid by either of the Companies referred to? ## The Government is not prosecuting this suit to impair or advance any individual right, but solely for the public benefit, which consideration, as well as the interest of science, requires that it be know what inventor developed the telephone, and whether or not any one has such right to such monopoly as to exclude the claims of all other people of the United States. ## It is assumed that you can possibly give most important information upon all these questions, and I respectfully request that you will have the kindness, if you may consistently and conveniently do so, to furnish me such as you have, as much in detail as you can find time to give it, and should I be of the opinion upon receiving it that it is necessary to do so, I will send one of the Government counsel to Florida to take your testimony in legal form, if you have no objection to giving it. ## I should be glad to hear from you at your earliest convenience."




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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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