HC Deb 21 February 1839 vol 45 cc746-8
Mr. Poulett Thomson

rose to move for leave to introduce two bills relating to copyright in designs for certain manufactured articles. It would be within the knowledge of the House, that during the reign of George 3rd, three Acts of Parliament were passed for the purpose of giving to the calico printers copyright in the designs used for their manufactures. The last of these Acts gave the copyright for three months from the time of the issuing of the prints from their warehouses. At that time, the use of the designs in question were confined to calico printing; but since then, there could be no doubt a very considerable amount of such prints were used in fabrics of different kinds. The Act, also, did not extend to Ireland; but since it was passed, calico printing had been carried on to a considerable extent in that country, and protection was required for the designs used. At first a doubt had existed whether, in point of fact, the Act did not really extend to Ireland, and while that doubt existed, it protected the designs; but as soon as it was removed, piracy commenced, and was carried on to a great extent. His object, in the first of the bills which he now proposed to introduce, was first to extend the provisions of the Act to Ireland, and then to extend the protection of the copyright in design, which was at present limited to calico, to other woven fabrics which were printed in the same manner. The other bill which he proposed to introduce had reference to the same subject, but was of much greater importance. The subject of patents for inventions and for patterns had been already much discussed, both in the House and in a Committee up stairs. It was not his intention to meddle with the patent Acts; but, at the same time, he had always thought that the Act in question was more especially adapted for the protection of those inventions as to which it was desirable to have the copyright extended over a long period of time—for seven or fourteen years; and that what was still wanted was protection for those inventions which were only wanted for a very short time, anti the inventors of which could not afford to go to the expense of obtaining patents in the ordinary way. It also appeared to him, that one of the reasons why all previous attempts to secure protection for the articles in question had failed was, that the promoters of them had endeavoured to extend the provisions of the patent-laws to those articles which were not by their nature capable of receiving the protection they afforded. He proposed to establish an office in London, where parties might have an opportunity, if they thought fit, of entering their designs, by which they would secure to themselves the privilege for a certain time—for six or twelve months, for instance—of enjoying the sole property in those designs and the articles made with them. He did not propose to make this course compulsory on the part of the owners of the designs; but merely to give them the opportunity of Caking advantage of the law if they thought fit so to do. He further proposed, that a Commissioner or some person appointed by the Board of Trade should have an office of this kind in London, and that he should he paid, not by a salary, but by the fees arising from the entry of designs. Thus no additional expense would be entailed upon the public. A great many branches of manufactures would be benefitted by this mode of protection. It had been over and over again shown, that a great many articles were made, the designs for which took a great amount of time and labour, which were nevertheless subject to be pirated, before they could find their way into the market. For instance, he had himself seen various articles in brass and iron—patterns for grates and stoves, and other things—for designing which artists had been paid 20l. 25l.30l. or 100l., as the case might be; yet, before the persons who had paid those large sums to the artists were able to bring into the market two or three of the articles for which the designs were intended, those designs had been copied by some one else, and they were thus deprived of the opportunity of obtaining what they were justly entitled to, namely, the priority of sale. Of this injustice, parties so situated had a right to complain: they had a right to call on the Legislature to relieve them. Now, these particular articles differed materially from printed calicoes and other woven fabrics, in the nature of the protection they required. In the woven fabrics, there was what in law constituted a publication, for at the end of each piece was printed the number of the piece, the name of the manufacturer, and the date of publication; and here was, at once, afforded evidence of the time of publication, and of the duration which the privilege ought to have. This, however, was not the case as regarded the articles he had last alluded to. The calico printers were perfectly satisfied with the means of identification which they at present enjoyed, and they would consider any change a serious inconvenience. But in the case of the other articles referred to, it was impossible to place any mark of publication on the articles themselves. In the bill, therefore, which he proposed to introduce, a registry would be afforded, of which the parties might, if they chose, take advantage. If they did not think fit to take advantage of it, they would then remain in the state in which they now were as regarded protection. He hoped that the measure of which he had here given an outline, would be found beneficial to those interested. One good feature of it was, that it would cost the public nothing. He hoped the House would give him leave to introduce it.

Leave given. Bills brought in and read a first time.