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The Barbed Wire Patent

Citation. 143 U.S. 275 (U.S. 1892)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Fence sellers rejected a patent for Glidden’s barbed-wire improvements because Glidden’s practice was already employed by other fence sellers.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Turning an invention into a more useful product is patent-worthy.


Glidden developed an improvement for barbed wire that allowed the barbs to stay in place, rather than hammering the barb into the wire. Several fence sellers claimed that Glidden’s improvements did not warrant a patent. The fence sellers also claimed that the improvement lacked novelty because other barbed-wire producers already employed the practice. The circuit court granted judgment for the fence sellers and Washburn & Moen Manufacturing (Washburn), who acquired Glidden’s patent, appealed.


Whether turning an invention into a more useful product patent-worthy?


Yes. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed. Glidden’s patent is valid because Glidden’s invention was physically different from other fence producer’s products.


(Field, J). There was no novelty in Glidden’s improvements.


An inventor does not need to create a new invention in order to qualify for a patent. Rather, an inventor need only improve on an invention to qualify for a patent.

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