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Archive for February, 2011

Ever get the feeling that battling the corporate giants was an uphill battle?  Riley Burdett found that out the hard way.  The pictured Victorian trade card is advertising for an organ company in which Riley was partners with Jacob Estey.  In 1871, Riley sued Jacob over an alleged patent infringement involving a reed board.

Estey Organ Victorian Trade Card

Victorian trade card advertising for Estey Organ Co.

Illness, Death, and Delay

It took 5 years after bringing suit, to hear the case.  However, due to the illness of one judge, and the death of two others, the case had still not been decided two years later.  During this time, Estey Organ Co. was allowed to benefit from a patent Riley felt was rightfully his.  How frustrating for Riley.   Two new judges then heard the case.  It took them just 5 months to make a decision. 

The Decision

The judge found in favor of Riley.  Ex-Governor Stewart of Vermont was appointed to take an accounting of profits due Riley.  Stewart took 5 months to find Jacob of Estey Organ Co. owed Riley $161,000.  This is approximately $3.46 million in today’s dollars.

No Decision Is Final

Of course Jacob appealed.  He put up a required bond of $200,000.  What?  Jacob put up money in an amount exceeding the awarded damages?  What if he ultimately lost the case?  Jacob Estey took a chance.

The chance paid off.  In November 1883, the United States Supreme Court ultimately decided in favor of Estey Organ Company.  Riley Burdett had fought then corporate giant, Estey Organ Company and lost.

Trivia:  If curious what yesterday’s dollar is worth today, see MeasuringWorth.com.

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