THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
, in rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill for consolidating with Amendments the Acts relating to Letters Patent for Inventions, observed that the Bill in many respects was a similar measure to, though not identical with, that introduced in "another place" by the Lord Chancellor in 1875, and which was again passed by the Upper House with some alterations last year. Everybody would acknowledge the importance and interest of the subject. The prosperity and preeminence of our manufactures was to a great extent due to the inventive genius of the people of this country; and if that prosperity and pre-eminence was to be maintained it would be necessary to protect and encourage inventions as far as that could be done judiciously and without imposing any undue fetter or 218 restraint upon trade. At one time an opinion prevailed pretty extensively that to reward inventors by conferring on them the right exclusively to manufacture and sell their inventions was contrary to public policy and detrimental to the community, and that some other mode of rewarding inventive genius might be discovered. But within recent years the matter had been very fully and fairly discussed with an opposite result; and the Royal Commission of 1863 and the Select Committee of 1871 arrived at a conclusion favourable to the maintenance of the Patent Laws, though the latter body suggested several important alterations and Amendments in them. Additional evidence in favour of the expediency of maintaining Patent Laws was afforded by the fact that a number of gentlemen representing different countries and thoroughly conversant with the subject discussed the question in Vienna at the time of the Exhibition of 1873, and passed a resolution in favour of the principle of such laws. A similar opinion had been expressed at a number of meetings held since then in this country. He thought he might, therefore, assume that the feeling which prevailed some time ago antagonistic to the Patent Laws had died away, and that if there was not complete unanimity, there was at all events a preponderance of opinion now in their favour. Of course, the Bill which he proposed to introduce was framed on the theory that there ought to be seine Patent Laws rewarding and encouraging inventors, and the only question really to be solved was how to frame them so as to secure the greatest possible benefit to the inventor without producing detriment and disadvantage to the manufacturer. Now, this was a Bill to consolidate, as well as to amend, the law; and, as the House was aware, the law as it at present stood with regard to the procedure as to Patents was contained in the Patent Law Amendment Act of 1852 and some Acts which had been passed since to amend it. No doubt those statutes placed the law on a much better footing than it was before, but many defects in the working of the system had since been discovered, and until those defects were removed it could not be said that the Patent Laws of this country were satisfactory. He would point out what appeared to him to be 219 the most striking of those defects, and would explain as he went along how it was intended by the Government to remedy them. The first objection he had to make to the working of the present system had reference to specifications. It was almost, if not absolutely, the universal practice to file in the first instance a provisional specification, and thereupon to receive provisional protection, as it was called. The period of protection was six months, and during that time the provisional specification was kept secret. Before that period elapsed application had to be made for Letters Patent, and they were usually granted, unless successfully opposed, on condition that the inventor should within a certain time file a further specification, which was called the complete specification, describing accurately and distinctly the nature of his invention, and the mode in which it was to be carried into effect. Now, that was, he thought, a bad system, because, in the first place, those who were interested in opposing the grant of the Letters Patent had to do so in the dark, having really no opportunity afforded them of' ascertaining exactly what it was the applicant wanted to patent. All they knew was that certain advertisements had appeared describing generally the sort of thing for which provisional protection had been obtained. There was another disadvantage: From the moment the applicant received the Letters Patent, being sealed he was armed with the means of bringing actions for infringements of the Patent; in fact, he was armed with the means to a very great extent of levying black mail, because, although his contrivance might be as old as the hills, and although his Letters Patent might be, for a number of reasons, perfectly bad, and although anybody who should be bold enough to meet him in a Court of Law would have an easy victory, yet most people had an objection, not, perhaps, altogether unreasonable, to embark in law suits, and rather than encounter an action for damages for an infringement of the Patent it often happened that they preferred to pay royalties for the use of the contrivance. It seemed to him, then, that the true policy would be not at once to give Letters Patent to a man, trusting him to disclose its nature afterwards, but to give ample notice to the parties interested 220 that they might be enabled to show, if they could, that the Patent ought not to be granted. There were other reasons which he would not at present go into for objecting to the existing system. In order to remedy this state of things it was proposed that when the applicant filed his provisional specification, as allowed at present, there should be an examination for the purpose of ascertaining whether it properly described the contrivance, and whether the contrivance was a fitting subject for a Patent, and it was further proposed to give him a longer period of protection—namely, a yéar, or, if necessary, more than a year, because many inventors, although they could describe their inventions in a general way, nevertheless required time to develop their ideas, and perhaps required the resources of third parties to aid them in experiments. During that period he thought it reasonable to provide that no action should be brought against any one for an infringement of the Patent, and before the period expired the applicant for Letters Patent would have to file a complete specification, which would be made public, submitted to examination, and then referred to the Law Officers and other authorities, and if either the applicants or the opponents were dissatisfied with the decision arrived at, an appeal would he to the Lord Chancellor. Under this system it would be secured that before Letters Patent could be obtained a complete specification would be laid before the public, an opponent would not have to oppose in the dark, a patent would not be given for that which ought not to have a patent, and the petitioner and the inventor himself would in some respects be a great deal better off than before. The next, and a very striking defect in the present system was that there was no adequate examination of specifications. No doubt they were examined by the Law Officers, but they flowed in in great numbers—sometimes 100 a-week—and it was very difficult for those Officers to find the time to examine them, and even if the time were found, they had not the materials before them to enable them to make a complete examination. The want of examination operated as a hardship against the inventor himself, because he was, in consequence of the ease with which he obtained his specification, frequently 221 lured on into expenditure which he could ill afford, to find when he had spent his money that the outlay had been perfectly useless. It was also a great detriment to the public that -Letters Patent were given which ought not to be granted, for every Patent so granted had, he maintained, the effect of having an undue restraint on trade. That state of things he proposed to obviate, and for the future the complete specification was to be subject to examination by a body of examiners which would be created by the Bill for the first time, for the purpose of ascertaining whether it was in proper form and whether the invention was a subject-matter for a Patent. The examiners would further have the important power of reporting whether or not in their opinion the specification disclosed a contrivance which was novel. That was a provision which would, he thought, be productive of great benefit, because no one could doubt that above one-half these contrivances were not novelties. When the examination had been concluded by the examiners they would report, and the specifications would then be made public and the matter would be referred to the Law Officers of the Crown, whose duty it would be to decide whether, under the circumstances, Letters Patent should be granted or not. As the law at present stood, the decision of the Law Officers if against a Patent was final, and that, he supposed, was one reason why they sometimes passed Patents which they ought not. He proposed, however, to give an appeal from the Law Officers' decision by the Bill, both to the applicant and to the opponents. But there was another defect in the law as it stood, and that was that there was no means of compelling a Patentee to put his contrivance into use. A Patentee, for example, who had invented some improvement in the manufacture of steel might practically monopolize the whole business, though the means at his disposal might be utterly inadequate to enable him to supply the public wants. In order to remove that defect, it was proposed that for the future if a man failed to put into use the invention for which he had obtained his Patent, say, for three, or, rather, four years, it should be competent for the Lord Chancellor if he found that Patentee had so acted without reasonable excuse to revoke the Patent 222 and to grant licences to manufacture on such terms as might be deemed just, the Patent to be revoked if the Patentee refused to comply with the decision of the Lord Chancellor. That, he thought, would effect a very great improvement in the existing law, while the inventor could scarcely complain of such a provision as being unfair, because no man had any property by our law in his invention unless he obtained Letters Patent. As a reward of his ingenuity he had a monopoly thus secured to him, but it was only right that it should be subject to reasonable conditions. The next point of importance which occurred to him was the peculiar position in which a Patentee now stood with respect to the rights of the Crown, a position which was considered somewhat hard. Under the existing law Her Majesty was entitled to make use of a man's Patent in her workshops to any extent which the Government might think proper without paying a single halfpenny. It had, however, been recently decided that if the Crown engaged with a contractor who agreed to supply articles, in manufacturing which a Patent might be used, although the agreement was to supply the Crown with those articles, and nobody else, still the contract or would be subject to the payment of a royalty to the Patentee. It was, however, obvious that that liability might be got over by resorting to a very easy contrivance, for the Government, if they thought fit to do so, though he did not say they would, might make the contractor the servant of the Crown and his workmen the workmen of the Crown, and in that way deprive the unfortunate man of all remuneration. Now, that was a state of things which he did not think fair, and it was deemed far better that the Crown should have the most unlimited right to use a patented article, but that it should pay for the exercise of that right, and if the amount to be paid could not be settled by agreement between the parties, that it should then be settled by the Treasury or some other tribunal appointed for the purpose. Again, as the law stood it enabled a man to patent what was called a communication from abroad. He himself, for instance, might go to Belgium and be struck with some ingenious contrivance for winding up blinds, for which ho might on his return to England obtain 223 a Patent, although he had no merit in the invention, and could purchase the right to it abroad for a few guineas. That he did not regard as a proper state of things, and that in justice it was proposed to remove. He therefore proposed that no Patent for a communication from abroad was to be allowed, although every facility would still be given to those foreign inventors to have their inventions patented whom it was desirable to attract to this country. There was another very important point to which he wished to refer. At present Patents were granted for 14 years subject to certain conditions, but Her Majesty, through her Privy Council, had a right to prolong a Patent if she thought proper, and some rules had been laid down on the subject with respect to the usefulness of the Patent and the remuneration of the Patentee for his ingenuity and labour. It was, however, very difficult to apply those rules, especially to those cases in which a Patent right had been sold, and the Government had deemed it desirable that the right to apply for a prolongation should be done away with, and that instead a Patent should be granted from the outset for 21 years. This would be a great been to the Patentee. There was also a provision in the Bill that a Patent should cease if it were not renewed at the end of the 3rd, the 7th, and the 14th year. At present it was necessary for a Patentee who desired a renewal to produce the Letters Patent themselves, but this difficulty would in future disappear, as he would only be required to produce the certificate described in the Bill. There were at present no means if a Patent had been accidentally allowed to expire to make an application afterwards for its renewal, but under a provision in this Bill the Lord Chancellor would be empowered to grant an additional period for applying for the renewal of a Patent. The Government also thought that the expense in the earlier stages of obtaining Letters Patent was too heavy and pressed with undue severity on the poorer class of Patentees, from whom inventions to a great extent proceeded. Therefore it was proposed to diminish by one-half the expense of obtaining a Patent. At present the expense up to the complete specification was £25, and it was intended to reduce it to £12 10s.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that, whatever the expense might actually be, it would be lessened by one-half. It was not proposed, however, that the duties payable at the end of the 3rd and 7th years should be diminished. Perhaps those duties were somewhat heavy, and operated rather' hardly sometimes on the poorer Patentees; but it was highly important to the community that worthless Patents should be weeded out, and there was no more effectual mode of doing this than by making it obligatory on the Patentee at the end of a particular time to pay something like a substantial duty. As a rule the worth of a Patent could be ascertained in four years, and it was not unreasonable to enact that, prior to its renewal, something like a substantial duty should be paid. At the end of seven years, at all events, one would think that the advantages of a Patent would have exhibited themselves. If, however, a Patent turned out to be worthless, the Patentee would not pay the duty. It was proposed to impose an additional duty for the renewal of a Patent so as to give the Patentee a right to the 21 years, and it was thought that it would be better that this additional duty of £100 should be payable at the end, not of 14, but of 12 years, so that the public might be fully aware whether the Patentee intended to make an application for the extended time.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
inquired whether duties would have to be paid at the end of the 3rd and 7th years, as at present?
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
replied in the affirmative, and went on to say that the present Commissioners were the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, and the two Law Officers for England. It was proposed, however, to increase their number by appointing as Commissioners the Law Officers for Scotland and Ireland, and some gentlemen who were not lawyers, but who were conversant with manufactures, trade, and inventions. He had now described all the main provisions of the Bill, though he had not dwelt on many minor points such as the power conferred on a Court of Law when dealing with a Patent case to call in scientific assessors. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Are the Commissioners to 225 be paid?] The examiners would be paid, but the Commissioners would receive no salaries. Some of them, indeed, would not condescend to be paid, and if some were paid and others not paid, he did not think they would act together very harmoniously. Their duties would not be onerous, but they would have the general superintendence of the working of the system, and he did not think it necessary that they should be paid. These were the main provisions of the Bill, and in his opinion it would be beneficial to inventors, to manufacturers, and to trade generally; and, therefore, he moved the House that leave be given him to bring it in.
§ MR. DILLWYN
said, he did not approve of some of the provisions of the Bill; but there was much in it of which he approved. He hoped to see the Patent Laws so amended as to prove advantageous to the inventor and the country; and he was glad that the present measure was introduced in the House of Commons, instead of in "another place." He hoped they would have a full discussion upon it. As, however, he understood the hon. and learned Attorney General's statement, he apprehended that the measure, without very considerable alteration, would not work well, and that its operation in its present form in a few years would tend to destroy the Patent Laws, and to render them perfectly useless. It would have a most discouraging effect, in his opinion, upon the class of poorer inventors. There were many inventions which had been pooh-poohed by the authorities and by the public for years which had subsequently turned out to be of the greatest value, and he entirely demurred to allowing any set of examiners to decide whether an invention was likely to be useful; that must be entirely a matter of opinion. He was sorry, too, that the hon. and learned Attorney General had not proposed to pay the Commissioners of whom he had spoken. The break-down of the present law—and there could be no doubt that it had broken down to a certain extent—was due to the fact that the work had been referred to gentlemen who could not possibly attend to it. In order to that work being properly done, he believed it was necessary that they should have able and first-class Commissioners, who should be properly paid. The existing law, if he remembered 226 rightly, provided that the Commissioners should be the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, the Law Officers of the Crown, and certain other persons to be appointed. These were the Gentlemen who were supposed to attend to the work; but no such persons had ever been appointed, and the consequence had been that it had been referred to subordinates—a result which was not, in his opinion, desirable.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, in common with the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) he also rejoiced that the Bill which had formed the subject of the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General had been introduced into the House of Commons. In that House there was a practical knowledge of invention, and the industry of the country was much more likely to be properly looked after than could be the case in "another place." In addition to that he was bound to say, after an experience of the way in which the question had been discussed on two occasions in "another place," that a most dangerous theory had been prevalent in that "place", and that Bills had been permitted to pass there which, if they had been allowed to pass the House of Commons also, and come into practical operation, would have proved ruinous to those who were affected by them, and he regarded the present Bill as a great improvement on those measures. The question was one of the utmost practical importance, and if they approached it with a determination to do what was just and right they would easily arrive at a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. Happily, it was not one of Party, and both Parties would be anxious to make the measure—the details of which would require very serious consideration—as perfect as possible. The object of such legislation ought to be to promote, encourage, and give facilities for inventions, and if that were done in this case, the Bill, in its working, could not fail to be attended with the best results. He trusted that every unnecessary difficulty which stood in the way of the inventor would be removed, and while he was glad to hear that some modifications upon previous proposals bad been introduced into the present Bill, especially as to the time and provisional specifications, he thought there were provisions in it which would 227 have the effect of reducing the number of Patents to a minimum; and that was a result which was not for one moment desirable. The hon. and learned Attorney General had said he believed the more Patents were sifted the fewer they would become; but, in opposition to that view, he (Mr. Mundella) might point to the case of the United States, where the number taken out was 300 or 400 per cent in excess of England. There was no country where Patents were so closely sifted as in America; and there was no country where there were so many, and where invention had done so much towards saving human labour, or had been more appreciated. In Washington they had a splendid museum for their Patents, while in London we had a few wretched sheds in the Kensington Museum, where discoveries of men like Arkwright and Stephenson were placed. He hoped this would soon be remedied. In England he never saw an invention yet which was not pooh-poohed at first, and the inventor had so many difficulties to contend with and was always so unpopular that the Government should try rather to smooth his path than to put any obstacles in his way. As to the Lord Chancellor fixing what should be the licence for working any particular Patent, or as to examiners with his Lordship's assistance doing so, he thought it was an utter impossibility. The hon. and learned Attorney General had said that under the present system Patentees had an opportunity of levying black mail upon their co-manufacturers; but he (Mr. Mundella), for one, had never known a Patentee of whom that could be truly said. On the other hand, a Patentee had to run the risk of his rich competitors coming down upon him with their wealth and crushing him; and as in this country the great mass of inventors were poor inventors, in legislating on this matter, provisions should be enacted which would have the effect of encouraging them, for the House should remember that the inventions which had most revolutionized trade were the works of poor men. He was quite clear that in the clause which gave the Lord Chancellor the right to grant compulsory licences lay the whole of the mischief in the Bill. A poor man might bring out the best invention in the world, and a rich manufacturer, saying that he did not want the machine to 228 prosper, for it would cost him say £70,000, and render his then existing plant useless, might get a compulsory licence, ruin the inventor, and put the invention aside. He did not believe that a bad Patent would injure an industry, because it would not be adopted. If an inventor brought out a bad Patent he simply paid his duty to Her Majesty and lost his money. He approved of the provision with regard to foreign inventors, and hoped the Government would adopt an international system of Patents in the same way as the international system of trade marks, and he could see no difficulty in this. With regard to the expense, the proposition was to lessen the smallest and increase the largest part of the expense. A Patent in France for 13 years could be had for £20 odd, and in America for 15 years for under £20, and he could see no reason why so large a sum as £50 was demanded under this Bill. The hon. and learned Attorney General said that a man could afford to pay £50 after three years' enjoyment of his Patent, but this was the most difficult payment he could be called upon to make, because he was seldom able by that time to get his article introduced into the market. The tendency of this provision must, therefore, be to discourage Patents. Patents ought to be obtained in this country as cheaply as in France or Belgium, and, in his opinion, it would be better to make the first payment for a Patent £1, and afterwards an annual payment of £1 or £2 during its existence. A much larger sum would thereby be obtained from the inventors, and the country much more benefited in its industry. It was unwise to discuss a Bill on its introduction, because he had learned from experience that it was impossible to trust to the details of a Bill from any Minister who introduced it. This, he would repeat, was no Party question, and he sincerely trusted that both sides of the House would co-operate in making it a measure that would be for the best interests of the Patentee and for the interests of the country.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he had no doubt the Bill would be very I useful, but he wished to say a few words with regard to two points in it, which he regarded with dislike—first, on the Patent itself, and next as to the exami- 229 ners. The Patent was an antiquated thing altogether and in itself meant expense. It was made out on a large piece of parchment with the Royal seal, and was a remnant of the old theory that the issue of a Patent was part of the Royal Prerogative. Instead of coming from the Lord Chancellor, a Patent should proceed from the Board of Trade. Why should not a Patent be like the brevet d'invention, as in France, or a certificate as in Belgium, which would be equally effective; and he considered that the privileges of inventors should be made as cheap as possible. The certificate should be issued from the Board of Trade which had the proper machinery to consider these questions, and it should specify the number of years for which the inventor should enjoy the privileges of his invention. With regard to the examiners, he could not see why a Patent should receive any consideration or undergo any examination before it was issued. If a Patent was found to be good, the inventor had his reward; if, on the other hand, it was useless, he hurt no one. When a man climbed up to the top of St. Paul's and stood upon the highest part of it on one leg, he applied to George III. for a reward. The King said he would give him a Patent. That would not have injured any one else, because no one wanted to perform the same feat. The principle in granting Patents ought to be one of great freedom, and it was for the public good that inventors should be able to take out Letters Patent at the smallest expense. All he thought necessary was a fee sufficient to pay office expenses and no more.
§ MR. B. SAMUELSON
said, he was glad to see that the Bill followed the lines of the recommendations of the Committee on the question of Patents which sat in 1871 and 1872. The differences between the Bill about to be introduced and those which had been introduced during the last two Sessions in "another place" had been so clearly stated by the hon. and learned Attorney General, that they were in a better position to judge of its merits than they generally were on the first reading of a Bill. He believed it was in many respects a better Bill than those to which he had adverted. He gave it his cordial support, and could only express the hope that it would not 230 meet with the same fate as those of 1875 and 1876, for if such should be the case he would rather that the Government should have availed themselves of those powers which they already possessed by the Bill of 1852 which had never yet been put in operation. He trusted that Commissioners would at length be appointed. The present Commissioners were as useless as if they were non-existent, because with their multifarious occupations they could not give any attention to the administration of the Patent Laws. He agreed with the hon. and learned Attorney General that there were difficulties and objections to the appointment of paid Commissioners, because there were eminent men whose services could be secured, but who would feel that the acceptance of salaries called for greater sacrifices than they were prepared to make. Not to mention any one living, he would instance the late Sir William Fairbairn as a specialist who would probably have given valuable service as an honorary Commissioner. With good officers the general superintendence of the office might be left to unpaid Commissioners. He thought there had been several mistakes regarding the functions of the examiners, whose function would ascertain, not whether a so-called invention was Frivolous, but whether it was properly the subject of a patent, and whether it was a novelty, and on this point examination would be of the greatest service, not only to the public, but to inventors also. As a manufacturer of machinery and of iron, he could adduce many instances of Patents which were mere obstructions to the development of improved processes of manufacture. For this reason he rejoiced at the introduction of compulsory licensing, which ho hoped nothing would induce the Attorney General to abandon. If the Patent system were to be maintained, it was necessary that inventions should not continue to be monopolies in this sense. Before the Committee of 1871–2, it came out that there were inventions patented by Englishmen, and yet the articles manufactured under the patents were manufactured exclusively and imported from abroad. Was that a state of things that ought to be allowed to continue? Nine out of ten of the Patents for sewing machines wore worked entirely by the importation from abroad of the manufactured article 231 and that was an argument for compulsory licensing. There was keen international competition in sugar refining, and a simple improvement patented in this country might render all our manufacturers except the Patentee unable to compete with those of Holland, where there were no Patents. With regard to the question who should decide what the value of a licence was to be, he believed that in very nearly every case it would be determined by the giver and taker of the licence. It would be in rare cases only that the parties concerned would be unable to agree; the fact of an ultimate authority existing—the Patent Commissioners or the Lord Chancellor, would tend to induce them to come to an agreement. There was another provision he did not approve of—that as to the manner in which a Patentee was to be remunerated for his invention when it was used by the Crown. He did not think that the Treasury was sufficiently impartial. If the Commissioners of Patents or the Lord Chancellor were substituted then the provision would be of some service. The extension of time for the completion of specifications would in many cases be a been; but inventions were often reduced to questions of detail and ran much on all fours with each other; and in such cases it would be a disadvantage to a rival inventor to be placed in a position of uncertainty for a long time. The advantages must be balanced against the disadvantages, and he was not prepared to say at that moment which were the weightier. It was only fair that a complete specification should be published before a Patent was granted, and it was a monstrosity that a monopoly should be given to a man without his being compelled to declare what the invention was, for some one might have been using it for years, and it was a hardship that he should be able to assert his right to continue its use only by costly litigation. Provisional specifications ought to state clearly what the inventions were, and care should be taken that the complete specification included nothing but what was fairly included in, or fairly grew out of, the provisional specification deposited. If there were a proper system of examination and of licensing, then the term of 21 years would be a fair concession. Under the present system, without the 232 safeguard proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, an extension to 21 years would be unfair to the public. As to the question of a Patent Museum, the present Museum at South Kensington was a disgrace to the country, and no language could be too strong in deprecating its condition; what was really wanted was not a Museum of Patents, but of important scientific and maufacturing inventions. It was a mistake to suppose that all important inventions were patented. On the contrary, the patenting of an important invention was, in some trades, the exception, not the rule. This was especially the case in the manufacture of iron, and he could state that one of the causes which had led to the rapid development of the Cleveland Iron District was the liberality with which its manufacturers threw open their inventions to their neighbours, instead of each one attempting to secure a monopoly by taking out a Patent. As he had said, he would support the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he would admit the inconvenience of discussing a Bill on the first reading, but if the author of a Bill thought it necessary to make a speech in introducing it, he must expect to hear something in reply. As regarded inventors, there were two points he considered to be most urgently required—namely, a reduction of the expense of getting a Patent, and the extension of time to enable an inventor to reap the reward of his discovery. On the first point he did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had made out his case in favour of his Bill. In America the expense he believed was only $35, or £7, and he (Mr. Anderson) thought the mode of examination adopted there was much better than ours, and the proof of that was in the result, for in no country was the inventive genius of the people so stimulated to activity as there, and if we wished really to encourage the inventive genius of our people, we ought, as far as possible, to adopt the system in vogue in America. On the second point, he thought the extension of time to 21 years would give the utmost satisfaction to inventors. He objected, however, to that portion of the Bill which required that an inventor should divulge everything before he got his Patent, while it 233 was left to the examiner to say whether the Patent should be granted. What man in the possession of a secret which he deemed of great value would risk its loss by accepting such terms? It could not be expected that a man would divulge his invention to the whole world while there was so much uncertainty whether he would get a Patent or not. As to licences, the public were entitled to some protection in the matter, for they had a right to demand that they should be enabled to get the fair use of a Patent. He thought that if the Commissioners were not paid the work would not be done well. He had no great belief in unpaid work. They must pay for work either in money or honour. Members of Parliament were paid in honour, but would these Commissioners be sufficiently paid in honour? He considered that it would be better to pay those gentlemen for doing the work than to pay the Law Officers of the Crown, for he could not see why the latter should be paid at all for this work; and now it was proposed to bring the Law Officers of Scotland and Ireland into the same system. They should pay the Commissioners and reduce the charges to those ingenious men who made new discoveries.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he would not reply to the objections which had been stated to the Bill; they would be better discussed hereafter. He wished, however, to explain that he did not propose to allow the examiners a power of veto; they would only report, and they would not be able to report against a Patent on the ground that it was frivolous. Frivolous Patents would perhaps do no harm, except to the inventors themselves. The examiners would have only to report that the provisional specification, which would be kept secret, was properly framed, and when the specification was completed to see that it accorded with the provisional specification—whether it was properly framed, and whether it was novel or not. He did not know that the American system was the best, nor that it could be copied with advantage, for he could not conceive that in any country there could be 18,000 new inventions in any one year.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill for consolidating, with Amendments, the Acts relating to Letters Patent for Inventions, 234 ordered to be brought in by Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, The LORD ADVOCATE, and Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 64.]