HC Deb 18 February 1862 vol 165 cc442-8

Trade Marks—considered in Committee. (In the Committee.)


said, that the subject he was about to bring under the consideration of the Committee was one of great importance. As he had no personal experience of the manufactures of this country, the statement he was about to make was founded chiefly on facts derived from some of his constituents, and he deemed it the duty of a legislator to state nothing except that which he really believed. His knowledge of the subject also was chiefly confined to the hardware manufacture, and he trusted, therefore, that those hon. Members who were acquainted with other branches of industry would freely state their experience upon the subject. He would first of all mention the object he had in view, and would then state shortly the means by which he sought to attain that object. The manufacturers of this country had, by dint of labour, industry, and skill acquired for themselves great reputation; and when a man had manufactured an article—say a table-knife, for which he had obtained a reputation—he wished, when it was sold, that it should be known to be of his manufacture, and he therefore not only put his name to the article, but also affixed to it his mark or symbol. That mark might be two crossed arrows, and the man's article so marked obtained a reputation, and the mark itself acquired a money value. Now, all he had in view by his proposal was to preserve to that man his mark or symbol. It was not desired to throw any difficulty or obstruction in the way of any honest man doing an honest act. Let a manufacturer make a table-knife, and put whatever mark he pleased on it; but let not the forgery of another man's mark be put on the article. He was well aware that a man who had a bad reputation in trade was anxious to avail himself of the credit attached to the name of one who had the character of supplying good articles, and he should perhaps illustrate better what he meant, not by a reference to our own manufacturers, although he believed there was no small amount of roguery in England, but by calling attention to the proceedings of some manufacturers abroad. Within the last month one of his constituents had been addressed by a Prussian manufacturer to the following effect:— I will make for you an article of hardware with any Sheffield mark you please. You have only to send to me and to tell me what mark you wish to have put on it. Not only will I do this, but I shall put the article in a wrapper of the Sheffield manufacturer, or one so like it that nobody can perceive the difference. Why, he would ask, did the Prussian manufacturer act in that manner? There were strong reasons. He wanted to come into the market and to compete with the Englishman advantageously; and how was that effected? He manufactured a bad article, affixing to it an English mark and price, which was a high one; while he made a good article, affixed to it his own mark, and put upon it a lower price: so that both standing in the market together, a sort of slur was cast upon the Englishman, inasmuch as the foreigner could say, "Here are my goods, see how much better and cheaper they are." So that of two articles made by the same man, the one was attended by a forgery, and the other with a lie. His constituents had had for many years a corporation in the town of Sheffield called the Cutlers' Company, and that company had had the case of the trade marks of individuals so regulated that any man might have his trade mark registered at any time. What was it, then, that he wished to have done? He desired to see the English manufacturer so protected that he might use his own symbols free from forgery, so that the world might know that the mark which he called his trade mark was his alone. With the view to effect that object, he asked for leave to bring in a Bill. He had such a measure in his pocket, drawn up by certain persons in the town of Sheffield; but he must, at the same time, state that the difficulties which he had pointed out also attended the trade of Manchester and Birmingham. There were, he was afraid, many persons both in and out of England, who obtained a dishonest livelihood by forging those trade marks. An instance had been laid before him in the case of a reel of thread with the name of the maker on the end of it, in which the mark of a manufacturer had been imitated, the reel containing, instead of 500 yards, only 200 yards, which was thus palmed off as the larger measure. Now, the man who committed an act of that kind was not, he contended, an honest manufacturer, but a forger. What he desired was, to put down as far as possible such proceedings for the future. He did not, however, expect the House would pass the Bill which he asked leave to introduce; nor did he ask hon. Members to take that course. All he desired was to be allowed to bring it in, so that he might have standing ground for the next step, which would be to move that a Select Committee might be appointed to which his Bill and the whole subject might be referred. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. M. Gibson) had also announced it to be his intention to introduce a measure of a similar nature, which would, he supposed, in like manner be referred to the Committee, so that evidence from the various towns of England might be adduced before a tribunal competent to deal with the matter. The Committee might have the aid of professional men, who would be able to deal with the law points involved, and as all he sought was their assistance and that of others in putting down fraud, the Committee would not, be trusted, oppose him in that endeavour. He had no hope of passing the Bill as it stood without inquiry, but still he thought I it right to put hon. Members to some extent in possession of its contents. In the first place, then, it made the forgery of a man's trade mark a misdemeanour, while in the next place it gave a summary jurisdiction in the case of such forgery. Besides that, it sought to give effect to a law of reciprocity between ourselves and other nations, so that if another country protected English manufactures abroad, we should protect theirs at home; and that, as an Englishman might register his name in a book of registration, so might a foreigner, who would then be entitled to the protection which the former enjoyed, it being made a sine qua non that there should be complete reciprocity. He would not further take up the time of the Committee, but in moving for leave to introduce the Bill, he would conclude by expressing an opinion that a great service would be rendered to the manufacturing interests if the subject were investigated by persons competent to deal with it, and that in this manner the skill and industry of the honest trader would be protected, while no one would suffer but the rogue.

Resolution moved, That the Chairman be directed to move the House that leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law relating to the counterfeiting or fraudulent use or appropriation of Trade Marks, and to secure to the Proprietors of Trade Marks in certain cases the benefit of International Protection.


said, he merely rose for the purpose of saying that the Government had no objection to assent to the course which the hon and learned Gentleman proposed. A Bill had been introduced last Session with a view to remedy the evils of which he complained. That Bill had passed through the other House of Parliament, but it had not been proceeded with in the House of Commons owing to that absence of inquiry into details which it was the hon. and learned Gentleman's intention to secure by referring his Bill to a Select Committee. The Government had given notice of the introduction of a measure that very evening on the same subject, which they should; be glad to refer to the same Select Committee, so that probably out of the two measures, and as the result of the investigation, a practical and satisfactory scheme might be devised. Although, however, almost all persons were agreed in condemning the forgery of trade marks as a crime, still it was extremely difficult in practice to give effect to that opinion without attempting to do more than was intended, and thus expose innocent persons to the hardship of vexatious prosecutions. The question which, under the circumstances, naturally suggested itself was, what was a trade mark, and how far were A and B entitled to the exclusive use of such a mark, so that C might be liable to punishment for adopting it? It was not sufficient to show that a person used a certain trade mark to entitle another to prosecute him, but that it had been so used as to become known to the world that it was the mark of the person by whom it was employed. With respect to the question so far as it related to foreigners, he would not say that he quite concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman in the course which he proposed to take. That course appeared to him to be of a somewhat retaliatory character, inasmuch as it pointed to our withholding protection from other countries unless they extended to us reciprocity, He believed he might add that the complaint had been made in foreign countries, that though England gave the benefit of her laws to foreigners, those laws were so bad that no practical redress was to be obtained when foreign trade marks were forged. We ought, therefore, to make our laws such as would afford a practical remedy both to foreign and home manufacturers. When foreigners found they could obtain redress in this country for the fraudulent use of their trade marks they would, no doubt, afford similar protection to our own countrymen. He had heard it alleged that the forgery of trade marks was largely practised in Prussia, but he was not aware that any appeal had been made by an Englishman to the laws of that State, and, until that was done, it could not, of course, be asserted that no legal redress could be procured there. The question of registration was very difficult. It was altogether a different case from the registration of designs. In the case of designs registration created a new kind of property, which would not otherwise have existed, but in the case of trade marks the operation would not have the same effect, since the law already recognised a property in those marks and rendered it a civil offence to forge them. Registration might, therefore, prove an obstacle in the way of the honest possessors of trade marks, because they would require to pay fees and go through forms which were not now necessary before they could sue and defend their rights. These, however, were mere details. The Government fully acknowledged that it was necessary to do something to remedy the evils complained of; but at the same time they were fully alive to the nice questions of law that arose concerning trade marks, and felt that care must be taken to prevent innocent traders from being exposed to frivolous and vexatious prosecutions.


remarked, that the course taken by the Government on the subject would prove very satisfactory to his constituents. Although there were not many manufacturers in the city the large warehousemen were deeply interested in the Bill, so far as it would render them liable to prosecution for innocently selling articles which had fraudulent trade marks upon them; and he was glad, therefore, to hear that they would have an opportunity allowed them of stating their views to a select committee.


said, that he agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Sheffield; but there was another fraud to which attention ought to be drawn—namely, the practice of manufacturers themselves putting false trade marks upon their goods. For example, a case was tried not long ago in the Court of Queen's Bench, when it was proved that a well-known manufacturer had been in the habit of sending reels of cotton into the market with less cotton on the reels than the figures on them denoted. He thought that a summary conviction should be provided for in such cases. He was at Paris, when Mr. Cobden was there negotiating the French treaty, and that Gentleman's Secretary had told him that one of the principal difficulties with which they had to contend in obtaining reciprocal legislation for the protection of trade marks was the very fact that English manufacturers were found to falsify their own trade marks, the Gentleman to whom he referred having specially mentioned the false quantities on reels of cotton as an instance of the frauds in question.


said, he thought the Bill ought to empower the Government to enter into arrangements for reciprocity on this subject with foreign countries. He held registration to be essential, and saw no difficulty in managing it. An old established system of registration for trade marks existed in Sheffield, and had worked very well. The manufacturers of that town complained bitterly of the ill-treat- ment which they received on the Continent, where their trade marks were widely pirated. When they cautioned the public by advertisement against the forgery, the impostors actually had the effrontery to advertise that they alone sold the genuine article. He trusted there would be no difficulty in providing a safe, economical, and efficient means of protection for honest traders.


remarked, that he should support the motion for the introduction of the Bill, the question being one in which his constituents were deeply interested.


said, that he rose to state that his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney General, who had been unfortunately obliged to leave the House, would lend his assistance in the consideration of this subject, upon which he had already bestowed much attention.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, had referred to the effect which the Bill might have upon the innocent manufacturer; but he (Mr. Roebuck) would remind him that the innocent manufacturer was not in the practice of imitating the trade marks of other persons. [Mr. Milner Gibson: I spoke of the innocent seller.] They need not be afraid that the measure would injure any honest man. The measure might injure rogues, and he should be very glad if it did so.

Resolution agreed to.

Resolution reported.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. ROEBUCK, and Mr. HADFIELD.