Andrews v. Hovey
In Andrews v. Hovey, 124 U.S. 694, 717 (1888) it was said that the construction of a statute of the United States concerning patents for inventions cannot be regarded as judicially settled when it has not been so settled by the highest judicial authority which can pass judgment upon the question.
"Nor," the court further said, "is this a case for the application of the doctrine that, in cases of ambiguity, the practice adopted by an executive department of the government in interpreting and administering a statute is to be taken as some evidence of its proper construction. The question before us as to the validity of a patent, by reason of preexisting acts or omissions of the inventor, of the character of those involved in the present case, is not a question of executive administration, but is properly a judicial question. Although it may be a question which, to some extent, may come under the cognizance of the Commissioner of Patents, in granting a patent, yet, like all the questions passed upon by him in granting a patent which are similar in character to the question here involved, his determination thereof, in granting a particular patent, has never been looked upon as concluding the determination of the courts in regard to those questions respecting such particular patent, and, a fortiori, respecting other patents."