HC Deb 15 June 1881 vol 262 cc570-613

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he wished to disclaim the idea that this was a mere inventor's Bill. It was an inventor's Bill, no doubt; but it was far more for the good of the public than it was for the good of inventors. To his mind, the good of inventors and the good of the public was in this matter more or less identical. It had been too long the practice to treat inventors as a body who were hostile to the interest of the public. They had been considered parties who were fleecing the public and levying black-mail upon them for the use of their inventions; and it had been thought that if the inventors could be deprived of this profit by a heavy tax the public would get the benefit of many inventions free. Thus there had been a system of repression practised towards inventors by means of the heavy taxation that had been laid upon their brains. If this taxation were the means only of weeding out useless and frivolous inventions there might be something to be said in its favour, or if it were the means of driving out the most profitable patents—those that the patentee took most money from the public for—there might be something to say in justification of it. But the case was exactly the opposite of all that. The patent that was really profitable to the possessor, and was taking a great deal of money from the public, was able to pay the heavy tax put upon it, and therefore it would not be freed to the public by taxation. It was in reality inventions that were incomplete, imperfect, or useless that were thrown open to the public by means of this taxation. Taxing inventions heavily practically suppressed inventions, or drove them out of the country. It simply taxed brains, and brains in any other thing were not considered a proper subject for taxation. No doubt it had been said, and with a certain amount of plausibility, that it was a perfectly fair thing if we conferred the privilege of monopoly upon an individual by giving him patent rights, that individual ought to pay for the privilege of monopoly so conferred upon him. But though that was a very plausible view of the matter, it was a very narrow and insufficient one. If a patentee was fortunate—and he was sorry to say that very few of them were—the patentee had to pay Income Tax and other taxes upon the profits that he drew from the public through his invention, and therefore there was no ground for laying on an additional tax upon him. But the benefit to the community in having an abundance of inventions in the country was infinitely greater than any benefit the community could possibly derive from any amount that could be got by the tax upon patents. Another argument in favour of this heavy tax was that it weeded out useless inventions which were said to bar the progress of invention; but that was a theo- retical objection to cheap patents, and not a practical one. The best proof he could give of this was that in America, where they had only one payment at the beginning, there was no process of weeding out by tax; and yet they did not find there that invention was barred by the existence of patents that ought to be weeded out by the imposition of a tax. There was a natural weeding out of useless patents, and that was by the public not appreciating them, and therefore not paying for them. That was quite a sufficient weeding out for any practical purpose. But even if weeding out were required, a very much lower amount of taxation than the present periodic payments would be quite abundant for the purpose of doing it, and this striving for the weeding out of useless inventions, for protecting the public against inventions that were supposed not to be of value to the public, might very easily be carried a great deal too far by a paternal Government. If it were thought fit to give examiners the power to weed patents, the result might be that many very valuable patents might be refused. In Prussia the Bessemer process, and in Germany the Siemens process, had in that way been refused patents. It was a far less evil to the public to have any number of useless inventions slowly dying a natural death than it was to stifle new ideas and new inventions and prevent the country from having them at all. It was for the interest of the country to stimulate the inventive genius of the people to the utmost, to give the working men in the country the habit of inventing, the habit of thinking while they were at work in order that they might benefit themselves by improving their machines and the processes under which they were working. If every intelligent working man had that idea strongly before him—as every working man had in America—that he could by improving his processes derive great benefit for himself, an enormous amount of good would be done to the manufacturing industry of the country. Now, the spirit in which this Bill was drawn was that the interest of the public and the interest of the inventors ran in parallel lines; that the manufacturing industry of the country required the utmost amount of inventiveness that could be drawn from the brains of its people, and that that inventiveness could only be got by treating inventors in a liberal spirit, and rewarding them in the best way that could be done. They had been, he thought, far too slow to recognize this fact. Other countries had recognized it much sooner; but of all countries America had been the first to take a broad and enlightened view that invention was not a proper subject from which to draw revenue for the country. The American idea was that the Patent Office should pay its own costs; but it should do nothing more—that every penny beyond that that was taken from inventors was really doing a permanent injury to the country by suppressing invention. America had reaped its reward; a few days ago the Prime Minister described how American agriculture was stimulated and assisted by the perfection of its labour-saving appliances. That was perfectly true; but the same thing was true as regarded every other industry in America which was assisted by labour-saving appliances and by the most ingenious tools to an extent that we knew nothing of in this country. All that was the fruit of a liberal Patent Law. In America they granted a patent lasting 17 years for the small charge of $35. We in this country gave a patent which lasted only 14 years, and. we charged for it $875, or, in other words, twenty-five times as much for a less valuable privilege. Now, labour-saving appliances were generally small things. They could not afford to pay a large tax. Our heavy tax killed them or suppressed them. They might afford to pay a tax of £7, as in America; but they could not afford to pay £175, as they were required to do in this country. We simply, therefore, did not get them, and America did. But, whether in great or in small inventions, America had undoubtedly beat us hollow. It might be said that in drawing a contrast with America he was taking an extreme case; but there were good reasons for taking America as a proper contrast to make with this country. The American people were the same race as ourselves—had the same blood and the same brains—and they might be fairly supposed to have the same amount of inventive genius. Why, then, should it be that in America invention was stimulated so much more than in our country? In America, with a charge of £7 for a patent, they granted about 15,000 patents per annum; while we in this country, with our high charge, could only give about 3,300 in the year. Could there be any good reason why Americans were more inventive than we were? He failed to see any except the liberality of their Patent Laws. Then the low charge in America abundantly paid the cost of the Patent Office. They did not aim at a revenue from it, but it gave them a surplus of about £30,000 a-year; and they were now actually proposing to reduce this charge of £7 still further. The Americans found that £7 was an unnecessarily high tax, and, knowing the wisdom of not making such a tax more than was absolutely necessary, they were recommending that it be reduced from what it was at present. But while the small tax paid the cost of the Patent Office, it had to be remembered also that the establishment in America was a very different thing from the patent establishment here. The Patent Office in Washington was one of the finest public institutions in America, as it ought to be in a manufacturing country; but we had a wretched old building in Chancery Lane, and a few models in Kensington Museum. We were altogether behind, notwithstanding our immensely high charge upon our patentees. It hardly needed saying that America beat us hollow. If we glanced over a number of the most important inventions of modern times we should find that they had all come from America. The sewing machine, the knitting machine, the type-setting machine, the telephone, the microphone, the phonograph, the electric light, nearly all the most valuable inventions in electricity in modern times had come from America; and down through the whole gamut of inventions to the very smallest, such as mousetraps and apple-peelers, and those thousand and one "American notions" that we now saw sold in the great many shops that had been established of late years amongst us, they all came from the other side of the Atlantic. In cutlery and machinery the Americans were able to beat us. They were able to come over here and buy the raw material, to pay freight upon it, and a duty in America of some 30 or 35 per cent, to take the material to their manufactories, to pay higher wages to their workmen than we did, to pay freight on the manufactured goods to this country, and when all was done to actually undersell our own manufacturers at home. He asked how that could be done, and when he looked into the matter he could not find any ostensible reasons for this superiority except two. One was the greater skill and the greater intelligence of the American workmen, and the other was the superior tools and labour-saving appliances and machinery which they possessed and which were got entirely through the liberality of their Patent Laws. But other countries were following the American example. In Germany, the initial payment was £1 10s.; in Austria, £10; in France, £4; in Belgium, 8s.; in America, £7; and in Great Britain, £25. The next payment in this country was at the end of three years. At that time the inventor, including the previous payment, had paid in Germany, £ 16 10s.; in Austria, £10; in France, £7 16s.; in Belgium, £4; in America, still only the £7; and in Great Britain, £75. At the end of the third year the British inventor had paid 10 times the amount that the American inventor had paid. Our next periodical payment was at the end of the seventh year. In Germany the inventor had by that time paid £71 10s., including, of course, the former payments; in Austria, £30; in France, £32; in Belgium, £14 8s.; in America, still only the first £7; and in Great Britain, £175. From these figures it was impossible not to see why it was that inventive genius was not stimulated in our country as it ought to be. He would now endeavour to describe the principles he had attempted to follow in this Bill. The first principle was, that there ought to be paid Commissioners to do the work, instead of leaving it as at present to the Law Officers of the Crown—the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, the Master of the Rolls, and the Lord Chancellor. He did not wish to say one word against any of these very able men; but they had other and far more important functions to perform, and to give them the Patent Office to look after was to make the Patent Office secondary work for them. Therefore it was that the work could never be well done. He knew he should be told that the Master of the Rolls was paying greater attention to the Patent Office than was ever given it before, but that was merely exceptional, and the work was still not the chief work of the Master of the Rolls.

What was wanted was to have Commissioners put in charge of the Patent Office who would have it as their duty to manage and organize that Office somewhat on the principle of the American Patent Office, to make the registers and bring them into a state of completeness very different from what existed at present. He should be told that great improvements were going on. He was aware that at the beginning of the year six new index clerks were appointed. They were very much needed; but a small tinkering of that kind was not what was wanted here. What was required was a fundamental change, and, above all things, what was wanted, and what had been included in perhaps every Memorial that had come to the House, was the making it the responsible duty of a responsible man to take entire charge of the Office. He did not think that could be done in any other way than by appointing, if not, as in America, five, in the meantime at least one Commissioner to take charge of the establishment. The next principle of the Bill was to extend the period during which patents should exist from the present period of 14 years to 21 years. There was a general consensus of opinion that 14 years was too short. There might be some difference of opinion as to whether 21 years was the proper extent to go to. His own opinion was that 21 years was the best period; but, at all events, he held that no shorter term than the American term of 17 years should be for one moment listened to. Fourteen years was quite insufficient in most cases to enable an inventor to develop his patent and to get any real good out of it, and, therefore, there ought to be some considerable extension. He might be told that it was possible now to get an extension beyond the period of 14 years; but it was an extremely costly and difficult process. Twenty-one years might be unnecessary for some patents; but it was very difficult to draw the line and say which patents it was too long for and which it was not; and, therefore, he thought the simpler plan was that whatever term of extension was adopted there should be a uniform term applying to all patents. The next principle in the Bill was that whatever change was made in the terms under which new patents were to be got, all patents in existence at the time should at once enter upon the new state of things, and get the benefit of the new changes for the remainder of their existence. That, he thought, did not require to be argued; it was so plainly a matter of justice that he did not think it would be disputed. The next point was that there should be some term of grace for the payment of the periodic payments. The House would hardly believe that at present, with long intervals of time between the periods when the periodic payment became due, if the inventor failed to remember the day, and omitted to pay on the very day, his patent immediately lapsed. The patent agents were very careful to remind the patentee of the day of payment; but he heard of a case the other day in which a patent on which about £6,000 had been expended, became void through the patent agent neglecting to inform the patentee of the day when the periodic payment fell due, and nothing short of a Private Act of Parliament could restore it. He thought that was a case of extraordinary hardship and injustice, and he therefore proposed to allow a term of grace in which, by the payment of a smart fine, the patentee should still be able to retrieve his patent even if he forgot the day. If it did not exceed three months, he proposed he should pay an additional fourth of the tax; if it exceeded three, and was under six months, that he should pay a half; and if over six, and under nine months, that he should pay three-fourths; over nine and under twelve months, that he should pay double the fee. That gave him a whole year of grace; and if he neglected it for a whole year, there could be no great hardship in allowing the patent to lapse. Then came, perhaps, the chief principle of the Bill—that as to the reduction of fees. He wished to say upon this point that the scale of fees that he had put into the Bill was by no means the reduction that ought to be made. It was only a small step in the direction of reduction. He would expect, if this were carried, it would be successful in far more than paying the costs of the Patent Office, and he should expect that there would be then a further reduction. It was a mere tentative reduction that he proposed; but he was certain that no smaller reduction than he proposed would be sufficient as a first step. Anything short of it would not be accepted by the inventors, and it would not be reasonable to expect them to do so. He had kept in view the important point of lightening the payments as far as possible in the earlier stages, so that the patentee might have time to develop his invention before he was asked to pay much for it. Besides the £25 paid up to the time of sealing, at present an inventor was made to pay £50 at the end of the third year. There was hardly any invention that had returned any profit, or that had been properly developed by the end of the third year. That third-year payment was a killing thing to inventors; and, whatever scale of fees was adopted, there ought to be no payment whatever beyond the initial payment till six or seven years had elapsed. Any money the inventor had ought to be left free for the development and improvement of his patent, and ought not to be taken from him by a tax. Taxes at a further stage were much less objectionable, and at that stage he had not attempted to make the reduction so great. He had proposed moderate payments at the 7th and 12th years; and if the patent extended beyond 17 years, he proposed that there should be a further payment at that time also. The next important point in the Bill was the extending of the provisional protection from six months to one year, and the making the date of the patent ultimately depend upon the date of the application. On a casual reading of the Bill it might be thought that this was not important, but it was of the utmost importance. For instance, one inventor put in an application for a patent, and he got a six months' provisional order. During the currency of these six months, perhaps a month after, somebody put in an application for a similar patent. A race took place between the two applicants, and if the second applicant contrived to get his final specification completed before the other, and got sealed first, he robbed the first man of his patent altogether. That, he thought, was a gross injustice, and one which had been severely felt by inventors. He therefore thought that in any amendment of the law it ought to be so made that the original inventor would have the benefit of his invention. The other points of the Bill were of less consequence. One was that additions and improvements to the patent should be allowed at half the price, and that they should go along with the patent itself, so that when the patent ended, the public might get not only the original, but all the improvements also. They would have a shorter term than the original, which was the reason for giving them at half-price. Another point was that servants of the Crown might have patents, provided that they were not in the Patent Office or connected with it. He did not lay much stress on this provision; but he thought it was a very fair proposal. It was a hard thing that, because a man was the servant of the Crown, he should not have the benefit of any inventive genius he might have. Another provision was that in the cases in which the Crown took the use of an invention the Crown should not be the sole decider as to the value of the invention, and what the remuneration of the patentee should be, but that it should be left to arbitration to decide on these points. These, then, were the provisions of the Bill. They embraced nine amendments of the law, and were all important, although they did not include all the amendments that might be made on the existing law; but they included so many that he believed if the inventors got these they would be content, and the country would be greatly benefited. Any improvement upon the Patent Laws must follow something like these lines in order to be satisfactory. Very likely he would be told that he was aiming at too much, and that this was too great a subject for a private Member to legislate upon. He could only reply to that, that all great subjects were private Members' questions generally before they became Government ones, and he should be only too happy to see the Government take it up. He was quite aware they could do it a great deal better than he could; but if they intended to take it up, they must take it up in a liberal spirit. They expected from a Liberal Government a liberal measure of reform on this question. They must not enter upon it in a peddling spirit. They did not want peddling changes. They were offered three different Bills by the late Government, and they were all peddling amendments. They were all so insufficient that he would recommend the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench (Mr. Chamberlain) to take those three Bills and hold them up before him as an ex- ample of what to avoid. Certainly such small changes as were contained in those Bills would never be accepted; and if the present Government attempted to pass a Bill on such small lines they would assuredly fail. The matter of fees especially must be dealt with in no grudging fashion. It must not be done in a higgling way, as though they were trying to see how small a reduction they could possibly get off for. The Government had abundant margin to go upon. The Estimates for the Patent Office this year were £183,800 of revenue, while the costs amounted to £29,438. There was thus estimated for the current year a surplus of no less than £154,362. This sum represented a tax of £150,000 upon the brains of inventors. There was abundant margin to work upon in order to make a large reduction on the cost of patents, and still have abundance to meet the costs of a properly-organized Patent Office. The American revenue from patents on their low charge was £140,000, while the cost of their Patent Office was £110,000. They would observe the difference between the cost of the two Offices. What did it mean? It meant that the American Patent Office was infinitely better done than ours. It was on a scale worthy of the country, while ours was on a scale utterly unworthy. Therefore, if the Government intended to take up this question, he would strongly urge upon them to make the reduction in fees a free and liberal one, because nothing else would satisfy inventors. And what was of infinitely greater consequence than satisfying the inventors—because that he looked upon as a merely secondary matter—nothing else would really stimulate the inventive genius of the country, and give the manufacturers of the country that abundance of invention which was necessary to keep up our position among the manufacturers of the world. He begged to move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Anderson.)


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he agreed with much that had been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow; but he took an objection to the Bill in its present form, which he deemed fatal. As to the de- sirability of lowering the patent fees, he was willing to have them even lower than the hon. Member for Glasgow proposed. He did not, however, agree in the view that the Patent Law of this country should be assimilated to that of America. He was quite willing to admit that the Americans were beating us in invention, as in many other things besides; but he apprehended that was due as much to the character of the people as to the state of the Patent Laws. He opposed the Bill for several reasons. There were two parties concerned in this matter. This was an out-and-out inventors' Bill, and did not sufficiently safeguard the interests of the public. That was his great objection to it. He disputed the theory that the interests of inventors and those of the public went side by side. He contended that the interests of the public were different, and not the same. But the provision which chiefly challenged opposition was the proposal to give all inventors a monopoly of their inventions for 21 years. The public, he maintained, ought not to be excluded for so long a period from the benefit of an invention for which they had to pay. Twenty-one years ought not to be the normal time for which patents would be granted. In the majority of cases, the cost of invention being very little, it would not be fair to the public to grant a monopoly for more than 14 years. He was willing to extend the period to 21 years in the case of inventions on which much capital should have been spent, or in which great difficulties should have been experienced; but such an extension of time ought to be the exception and not the rule. He quite agreed that the fees exacted from inventors might be lowered advantageously, and that a change in the administration of the Patent Office might have good results; but he was so averse from the proposal to give inventors a monopoly for 21 years, that he felt constrained to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that having an engagement elsewhere very soon, he proposed at once to state the view he took on the question which had been brought before the House by his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). In the first place, he was very sensible of the importance rightly attached to this question; and everyone who had the honour, which he shared with the hon. Member for Glasgow, of representing a large manufacturing constituency, knew how keenly the present state of the law was felt as an injustice, especially by the working class inventors. He was inclined to think that this feeling had been growing very considerably of late years. His hon. Friend was well aware that a few years ago there was a very strong feeling, held not merely by theorists and political economists, but also by many representatives of the manufacturing interest, against patents altogether. In 1865 a very strong Commission was appointed by the then Government in order to consider the whole of this matter. Among the Members composing it were Lord Hatherley, Lord Overstone, Chief Justice Erle, Lord Cairns, and Mr. Justice Grove. Now, although they did not recommend the absolute abrogation of the Patent Law, it was quite evident that they became strongly impressed in the course of their inquiries with many objections attaching to the law. In their Report they said— While, in the judgment of the Commissioners, the changes above suggested will do something to mitigate the inconveniences now generally complained of as incident to the working of the Patent Laws, it is their opinion that these inconveniences cannot he wholly removed. They are, in their belief, inherent in the nature of a Patent Law, and must he considered as the price which the public consent to pay for the existence of such a law. He was inclined to believe that the chief objections to the Patent Law were two. In the first place, the monopoly rights afforded by patents were not really enjoyed by the inventors themselves, but by capitalists or middlemen, not the real inventors—the most deserving of reward. That this was so was in part the consequence of the greatest defect of the existing law—namely, the exaction of excessive fees, especially those charged in the initiatory steps for taking out a patent. The fees were so high that a poor man was almost compelled to have recourse to the resources of the capitalist, who, of course, expected to derive some benefit from the transaction. The second objection to the present law was a still more serious one, and one which the House must take into consideration. It was that the progress of invention was to a large extent retarded by the existence of previous obstructive or frivolous inventions. The Commissioners in their Report said— The majority of witnesses, however, decidedly affirm the existence of practical inconvenience from the multiplicity of patents. It is clear that patents are granted for matters which can hardly be considered as coming within the definition in the Statute of Monopolies of 'a new manufacture.' It is in evidence that the existence of these monopolies embarrasses the trade of a considerable class of persons, artizans, small tradesmen, and others, who cannot afford to face the expense of litigagation, however weak the case against them may seem to be; and a still stronger case is made out as to the existence of what may be called obstructive patents, and as to the inconvenience caused thereby to manufacturers directly, and through them to the public. From a paper drawn up at our request by the Superintendent of Specifications, it appears that upon examining into the first 100 applications for patents in each of the years 1855,1858,1862, the results were, in his opinion, that in 1855, 26 were manifestly bad for want of novelty, and six more partly so; in 1858,14 manifestly old, and one partly so; 1862, seven were old, and one would probably turn out to be so. An instance illustrating the mode in which these patents are used is given in evidence, where royalties had been demanded, and in most cases obtained, by the patentee of a machine, which turned out upon investigation to be identical with one which 19 years before had been well-known and publicly used. Other instances will be found in the evidence of particular manufactures and branches of invention, which are so blocked up by patents that not only are inventors deterred from taking them up with a view to improvement, but the manufacturer, in carrying on his regular course of trade, is hampered by owners of worthless patents, whom it is generally more convenient to buy off than to resist. The evil also results in another practice having the same obstructive tendency—namely, that of combination among a number of persons of the same trade to buy up all the patents relating to it, and to pay the expense of attacking subsequent improvers out of a common fund. From a comparison of evidence, it cannot be doubted that this practice prevails to a considerable extent. We must also conclude that when the obstruction is not to be got rid of without the expense and annoyance of litigation, in a large majority of cases the manufacturer submits to an exaction rather than incur the alternative. These statements were fully borne out by the evidence, not of theorists merely, but of manufacturers and employers of labour, such as Mr. Brunel, Mr. Cubitt, and Sir William Armstrong. He thought, however, that there was now a tendency to attach less weight than formerly to some of these objections. He only wished to bring them before the House, because they should be borne in mind in order to reduce what he must call exaggerated claims. The existence of patents was to be defended, in his opinion, not on the ground so much of the rights of inventors, as on the ground of public utility. He did not think they could admit that there was any positive property in ideas. If they did so, to what results they would inevitably be carried. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow would not be content in that case to ask for a limited period of 21 or 17 years, but would claim a continuous use of the invention or the idea. As an illustration of this point, they might take Newton's differential calculus, or even the theory of gravitation. That was as much an original idea of Newton's as any machine was the original idea of its inventor; and yet it would be seen at once that it would be absolutely absurd that Newton should have had a right to prevent the use of those theories and formularies to all who came after him. It appeared to him the objects they should have in view in considering possible reforms, in the Patent Law, were three-fold. First, they desired, if that could be done, to secure fair remuneration to the inventor; secondly, they desired to stimulate invention. Here he might incidentally observe that if there were no Patent Law, one result would be that inventions would be concealed to the great disadvantage of the public, and another that capital would not be invested in the promotion of inventions. The third object they had in view was so to carry out the two purposes which he had already mentioned is not to restrict the further progress of invention by an undue prolongation of monopoly rights. They would have, therefore, to consider the term for which, a monopoly ought to be protected, and the amount of fees which ought to be paid. The length of the term was, of course, a purely arbitrary matter; and, logically, 14 years could no more be defended than any other term. The only question to decide at present was whether a sufficient case of hardship could be made out to justify them in extending what had in some haphazard form or another been adopted as the practice of this country. Now, the Commission of 1865 were unanimously of opinion that the term of 14 years should not be extended. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) had referred in terms of approbation to the practice of foreign countries. He found upon inquiry that in foreign countries the term which patents were granted for varied very considerably. In several of those countries patents were classified. Very short terms were given for patents of a less important character. In France patents were granted for 5, 10, or 15 years; in Germany for 15 years; in Russia for 3, 5, or 10 years; in Italy for 1 to 15 years; in Spain for 5, 10, or 20 years; in Austria for 1 to 15 years; and in the United States for 17 years; and in all these cases if a patent was a foreign patent, or if a foreign patent was taken out, then the home patent expired with the earliest of the foreign patents. He thought it would be found that the term now allowed to English patentees was at least as favourable as the average term allowed in foreign countries; and considering that it certainly was undesirable to prolong more than was necessary these exceptional rights, and considering also that in cases in which it was proved that the patentee had not received what might fairly be considered adequate remuneration for his invention he was enabled to obtain an extension of the patent, he confessed his own opinion—though he did not pledge the Government—was that the term of 14 years was a fair concession on the part of the public in return for the benefit conferred upon it by the patentees. Now, he came to what he considered really the crux of the whole question, and that was the question of the fees. In that matter the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) was really in entire accord with the Mover of this Bill. As the hon. Member for Glasgow had stated, there was a large surplus in the revenue of the Patent Office after payment of expenses. He did not quite agree with him in his figures as to the exact surplus; but he found in 1879 the surplus was £144,000, and, no doubt, in the present year the surplus would be as large as that.


said, he had taken his figures from the Civil Service Estimates of the Patent Office.


observed, that though that was so, he thought other charges must be deducted before the net result was ascertained. This balance to the credit of the revenue had increased from £21,600 in 1859 to its present amount. Then he was led to inquire whether these fees discouraged invention. He must say the facts hardly seemed to bear out that theory, because there had been a steady increase in the applications, and a very remarkable one on the whole. In 1852 the number of applications was 1,211; 10 years later, 3,490; 10 years later, 3,970; in 1879 they were 5,338; and last year he believed they were nearly 6,000. It was said that the number of American patents was much larger; and it was, no doubt, true that the applications for American patents were something like 20,000 annually at the present time. He was informed, however, that as a rule more separate patents were taken out for the same invention in America than were usually taken out in this country, and that an English patent covered on an average something like three American patents. This, of course, considerably reduced the apparently great number of American patents. The cost of an American patent was £7; but this amount was largely increased if the patent were opposed either by the examiners or by third parties. In the United States a preliminary examination was established, which raised the question of novelty, and which led to a great number of questions which were not raised in the case of similar patents in this country. When the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) said that, in consequence of the differences in the Patent Laws, the Americans were beating us hollow in inventions, he must state his opinion that his hon. Friend was mistaken. He knew, indeed, that that was the prevailing impression; but, having some practical experience in the matter, he did not believe it was based on adequate foundation. Owing probably to the scarcity of labour in the United States, the Americans had a multitude of inventions in matters which in this country were considered too trifling for the exercise of ingenuity; but it would be found that the vast majority of the really important inventions by which the trade and commerce of the world had been revolutionized, were English inventions. He need only mention the inventions of men like Stephenson, Watt, Wheatstone, Bessemer, and Siemens. In fact, nine-tenths of the important inventions in the great trades were the product of English ingenuity. This circumstance should be borne in mind, when it was supposed that we were beaten hollow by "our Cousins across the water." At the same time, he did not urge these considerations in order to diminish the force of the facts stated and the arguments put forward by his hon. Friend in favour of a liberal reduction of the fees. Putting aside exaggeration, they must all be of opinion that the cost, and especially the initial cost, must have a tendency to disparage invention. Under these circumstances, the first point in any reform was to lessen most substantially the initial fee, at all events, and possibly the subsequent fees too. He likewise agreed with his hon. Friend that it would be desirable to extend the term of provisional protection, and to allow greater facilities for the amendment of the specification. He was informed that if the reduction which his hon. Friend suggested were adopted as it stood in the Schedule to the Bill, the fees would not pay the actual cost of working the Patent Office, unless, indeed, there should be immediately a very largo increase in the number of applications. He did not pledge himself to this opinion, but it was the opinion of the officials in the Patent Office; and, clearly, before legislating on the subject, it would be desirable carefully to inquire into the facts; but he was of opinion that the principle stated by the hon. Member for Glasgow was the one which should guide the decision, and that, in making the reduction, regard should be had chiefly to the necessity of paying the actual expenses of the Office. His hon. Friend proposed also to alter the term for the subsequent payments. He found that the effect of those large subsequent payments was very remarkable indeed. Between the time of the application for a patent and the sealing one-third of the applications dropped, either because the inventor was unable to pay the fees, or because in the interval he had discovered that the patent was of no value. In the third year there came a second payment of £50, and the result of that was that two-thirds of the remaining patents dropped off, and only 30 per cent went on to the term of the next payment at the end of the seventh year. That knocked off 19 per cent, leaving only 11 per cent of the total number of sealed applications, which were carried forward beyond the seventh year. His hon. Friend complained of the largeness of these payments; but every practical man knew that it had a beneficial effect in weeding out frivolous patents, which were a great clog to subsequent inventions. He did not like, therefore, to give up the idea of having some heavy second and tertiary payments which might have the effect of weeding out such patents. His hon. Friend asserted, indeed, that there was a self-weeding process going on which would do all that was required; but, for his own part, he did not believe this to be the case. If a man who had taken out a frivolous patent had not to pay a fine for continuing it, he would have no reason for letting it drop. The principle of these payments must, therefore, be upheld. Still, he was inclined to agree with his hon. Friend that the third year was too early to make the second large payment. Without pronouncing positively on the subject, he thought that that payment might fairly be postponed to the fifth year. Then his hon. Friend proposed that a year of grace should be allowed for the first and all subsequent payments. That, he thought, was open to serious objection, although he did not pronounce positively on the subject; for the effect of all periods of grace was that they became part of the original term. His hon. Friend said that he had attached to the period of grace a very heavy fine; but what would be the effect? His hon. Friend proposed to allow 12 months' grace upon the payment of a fine equal to 50 per cent of the payment. [Mr. ANDERSON: 100 per cent.] He (Mr. Chamberlain) would ask his hon. Friend to suppose the case of a man who did not intend to continue the patent or pay the fine. In that case the man would get the advantage of the year of grace, and would not pay the fine in the end. His hon. Friend further proposed that the sealing of a patent should date back to the original application. That, he thought, was an exceedingly reasonable proposal, and one which would have the support of the House; for no doubt great injustice occasionally followed from the present system. Then his hon. Friend proposed that paid Commissioners should be appointed to do the work which was now done by the Law Officers of the Crown. He thought, however, that before we created a new official post, with all the consequences which that involved, we ought to consider what it would have to do. If it were to do no more than the duties at present imposed upon the Law Officers of the Crown, he thought a change was unnecessary. He knew it had been suggested that there should be a preliminary inquiry into the novelty of patents; but he thought that the decisions of any tribunal appointed to deal with such delicate matters would give rise to the greatest dissatisfaction. At all events, his hon. Friend made no such proposition in the present Bill, for he did not propose to lay on the Commissioners any new duty. His hon. Friend suggested that they should keep a library, and records, and a register, and that the register should be indexed and accessible to the public on payment of a small fee. He really thought his hon. Friend could not be aware of what had already been done in this direction. During the last few years all legitimate cause of complaint on this head had been satisfactorily removed. At the present time there existed a complete register of all patents from the year 1617 downwards; it was indexed to facilitate searches, and it was accessible on payment of a fee of 1s. These registers had been in existence since 1852. There were alphabetical and subject indexes, which were published annually and sold to the public at cost price. Lastly, there were volumes of abridgements of the specifications of patents most convenient for reference. These had already been published in 98 series. At the present moment 14 clerks were engaged upon them; and he believed that in a very short time they would be complete. His thanks were due to his hon. Friend for calling attention to this important subject and for the scheme he had prepared for the consideration of the House. He might assume that his hon. Friend's chief object was to have his proposals fully discussed, for he could hardly suppose that in the present Session he would be able to carry the Bill to a successful issue. This was a work which the Government ought to undertake. He was aware that there were many points of detail not touched upon by his hon. Friend's Bill, to which the Government would have to give attention in amending the Patent Laws. It would also be necessary to take into consideration the possibility of international arrangements. He thought he had shown that he was friendly, not only to the objects his hon. Friend had in view, but also to what he conceived to be the principal proposal contained in the Bill—namely, a substantial reduction in the fees and the prolongation of the term of provisional protection. He was not in a position to pledge the Government as to the course which in a future Session they might be prepared to take; but nothing would please him better than to find that, the House having resumed control over its proceedings, and being able to deal with the general Business of the country, he should have an opportunity of making alternative proposals in the sense, to a large extent, of those made by his hon. Friend. All he could assure him was that he should be anxious to deal with the matter at the earliest possible moment. In conclusion, he hoped his hon. Friend would be satisfied with this assurance and with the discussion which had arisen, and that he would not put the House to the trouble of going to a division.


said, that one of the defects of the present system was that the Law Officers of the Crown were continually changing, that they were not scientific men, and that they could not be acquainted with the nature of the schemes which were submitted to them. The consequence was that a number of patents passed which did not possess the element of novelty, besides a great many more which did not possess the element of utility. In creating these patents we were giving individuals a monopoly against all the world, and such a right ought not to be granted without stringent conditions being imposed. One of the conditions ought to be that anyone should be allowed the use of the patents on fair and legitimate terms. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would, after re-consideration of the subject, see his way to the appointment of some sort of tribunal to regulate the issuing of patents in the first instance. Such a tribunal would prevent a great amount of litigation, heart-burning, and difficulty. The fees should certainly be reduced; but, at the same time, we ought to provide against the reduction of expense leading to a flood of patents which were neither useful to the public nor to the persons who sought to obtain them.


thought the House had some considerable cause for satisfaction from the fact that the President of the Board of Trade had not to-day in any serious manner used the arguments which had been common nearly 20 years ago. The ideas which then prevailed as to the rights of inventors, and the legitimate result of their thought, were antiquated in those days, and he was sure it was a great pleasure to know that they had not to listen to these arguments now. The Bill of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) had been well discussed throughout the country. The working men of the United Kingdom were unanimously in favour of reforms quite as large as those proposed in the Bill, to say the least of it. Many of them were of opinion that the Bill did not go far enough in the direction of reducing the fees. Many men who were well informed on the subject, and who had inventions in their possession, were of opinion that in justice to the inventors, as well as in the interests of the nation, the cost of the patent should be reduced at least to the same sum as the American Government were charging. That was, he might say, the unanimous opinion of the working men of the United Kingdom. They had discussed this subject for some five years in succession, and there was a great anxiety on the part of people outside that some proposals similar to these should very soon be embodied in legislation. There was one special cause of comfort to be derived from the knowledge that the people were in favour of these proposals. There was, no doubt, at the present time a latent suspicion that the working men's organizations were not in favour of machinery in the place of manual power. Their unanimous appeal to Parliament to remove all obstacles in the way of the full application of science to production was the best answer that could be given to any such suggestion. It was true that in America there were 13,000 or 14,000 patents granted each year, against some 3,000 in this country. The main cause of that was not that the American people were more inventive than the English people; it was because greater facilities and encouragement were given to the inventions in America; and then it must be remembered the American got the credit of very many inventions that were conceived in other parts of the world. Many a poor man in England or Scotland found himself utterly unable to cope with the heavy charges of our Government, and transmitted his invention to America, because he could obtain protection cheaper. He sincerely hoped that this inequality would not long exist between our own charges and those existing under the American Government. The President of the Board of Trade, when he was speaking of the £7 charge made by the American Government, pointed out that £7 did not on all occasions discharge all the liabilities connected with the obtaining of the patent. That was perfectly true. But the great secret and the great advantage of the American system was, that when the preliminary examination was over, the patentee obtained a real protection. When the patentee left our Office he had a patent, but no protection. He had merely a licence to go to law if there were some wealthy people against him, who could lay any kind of claim whatever to the originality of this particular production. The system in vogue in America of settling a dispute, if there was a dispute, at the commencement, was a proper and wise proceeding; because when the patent was obtained its possessor was free to apply it to the industrial works of the nation. This country, he believed, charged a higher rate for patents than any other country in the world, with the exception of Germany. He would appeal to Her Majesty's Government to take this question up at the earliest possible moment. There was no greater or more urgent question connected with our industrial interests than that of freeing the brains of our working people, in order that they be applied to the greater increase of industrial production. England today owed more to her inventors for her greatness and wealth, and her superiority over the other nations of the world, than she owed to her soldier or her sailor, and he hoped we should maintain that superiority by encouraging all those who had inventions to apply them at home, and to give this country the benefit of them, rather than drive them to foreign countries, where they obtained protection at a cheaper rate. The fact that this nation derived a revenue from inventions to the extent of £120,000 or £130,000 a-year was a monstrous thing. It was as infamous to his feelings as was the tax on the food of the people, although it was in another form. He confessed he was not so well pleased with the statement of the President of the Board of Trade as he had expected to be He thought the promises made by the right hon. Gentleman were not at all liberal. They were in no way equal to the occasion. They were almost as contracted as were the opinions of the late Government when they first commenced to draw a Patent Bill. But as the late Government progressed every successive year, so he hoped that the views of the present Government would enlarge on this question; and he should prefer to wait than have a Bill which, according to the rather right hon. Gentleman's statement, would be the least possible reform that could be given by the Government in response to the working people and the inventors of this country. If the hon. Member for Glasgow went to a division, he should certainly consider it his duty to support the second reading of the Bill.


said, he hoped the discussion would not be unprofitable in encouraging Her Majesty's Government to deal with this subject at an early opportunity. He could not say that the present time was favourable for examining the proposals of the Bill in any great detail. No doubt, the hon. Member for Swansea was entitled to insist on such conflict as there might be between the interests of the public and the interests of inventors; but he was sure that the House would agree with him that it could not be to the interest of the public or the progress of invention that the legitimate profits of an invention should go to others than the inventors. He was in favour of lowering the expenses imposed upon inventors in return for the protection they received from the State. Patents were rightly the object of monopolies, though it might be true that monopolies were against the Common Law. They had been told that the patentee was inclined to demand unreasonable profit. That might be safely left to the operation of the law of supply and demand. If the patentee was inclined to demand a greater sum for an invention than the public was willing to give, he would soon find the limit to which he was able to push his demand. He was sorry to hear upon one point the observations of the President of the Board of Trade—namely, that he had come to a hard-and-fast resolution that this subject neither could nor should be dealt with otherwise than by the Government of the day. He must say that the discussion of this afternoon afforded ample evidence to show that this subject might be dealt with not only on a Government night, but on a Wednesday afternoon, removed from the heat and passion of Party debate, by a sufficient quorum of the House, consisting of Members qualified to discuss the case. He hoped it would not be laid down that the subject should not be legislated upon because the Bill dealing with it was initiated by a private Member. As to the possibilities of a loss of revenue by the reduction of the patent fees, he thought that experience of the American system, and our own experience in the matter of the penny post, ought to be a sufficient answer to any pessimist opinion. He thought at least that this was a subject upon which any Government might very fairly face the risk of a slight loss of revenue. He hoped that this subject would be legislated upon, not necessarily by the Government—for in these days they did not find that subjects in which the Government claimed a monopoly came most readily before the House—but that Government would do what they could to bring on the subject at as early a day as it possibly could, because he believed it to be one of fully as great importance as many of those now presented to Parliament. If the hon. Member for Glasgow proceeded to a division, he would have great pleasure in supporting him, not so much because he adopted in their entirety the proposals of the measure, but in order to record his sense of the urgency of this question.


said, he wished, as one who had given much attention to the Patent Laws, and as one who was a patentee and who had worked other people's patents, to offer a few remarks. He was glad this subject bad been brought forward. There could be no question that, as we were entirely dependent on our manufacturing industry, we must look to our laurels and encourage our inventors, for otherwise we should be beaten in the race. Our workmen used to think it necessary to keep up the cost of production; but now they supported labour-saving machines, believing that they would share in the saving effected by the inventor's thought and skill. Unless there were Patent Laws no invention would ever come into use; but by granting the patent it was made worth the while of the patentee to work his patent. Here no man could work a patent unless he was a capitalist; but in America, as soon as a man got a patent, he went to a capitalist, who advanced the money, and worked the patent as a joint partner. No invention, however good, could be sold if no person had incentive for working it. He was in favour of a great reduction in the fees payable for a patent. He believed that the general feeling of the country was in favour of a Board of Examiners; but he would give them the power only to advise as to whether an invention had been patented before or not, but not the power to forbid its being patented. It they were to have a new Patent Law they ought to have a new Examining Board. In this country we had only one patent a-year for 12,000 of the population, while in America the proportion was one patent to 3,000 of the population. If we could get an open Patent Law our workpeople would see it to be their interest to spend their spare time in improving the machines upon which they worked, and thus the cost of production would be reduced. His principal objection to the Bill was that it proposed to extend the time to 21 years. If they were to do that they would set public feeling against them, and the result would be that the Patent Laws would be swept away. At present the feeling was in favour of the poor inventor; but if too great a monopoly were insisted upon it might endanger the Patent Laws altogether. It was said that to place the Patent Laws upon the same footing as those in America would entail a great loss upon the Revenue; but the Government had already in hand £1,500,000 belonging to inventors, who would willingly place it at their disposal in order to try the experiment of reducing the fees. He hoped his hon. Friend would go to a division, and that the Government would accept the Bill as a platform to start from. He thought the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade showed how much the Government wanted education on this matter. Next year the Government might bring in a measure on the lines of this Bill with such alterations as might be considered necessary


said, he did not rise to discuss the oft-debated question whether there should be Patent and Copyright Laws, which was touched upon by the President of the Board of Trade, because it was admitted by the right hon. Member that there must be a Patent Law; and, indeed, he went so far as to undertake that Her Majesty's Government would bring in a Bill to amend the law. He (Sir Henry Holland) hoped the effect of this afternoon's discussion would be, not only to secure the introduction of such a measure next year, but of a measure more liberal to inventors than that shadowed forth by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. At all events, he desired to urge one point strongly upon the Government—namely, the expediency of establishing a strong Board of Examining Commissioners. That the present investigation of patents by the Law Officers was not satisfactory, he thought was generally admitted. This did not arise from any fault of the Law Officers, past or present, but partly because the powers vested in the Law Officers was of a very limited character, and partly because Law Officers were a shifting body and not a scientific one. They were not skilled in chemistry or in machinery, though quite competent to deal with the law as to novelty or infringement of patents. It would be far better, therefore, to have a fixed body of Commissioners, as proposed by the Bill of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). Even as the Bill stood, litigation would be to a considerable extent checked. The knowledge that a patent had been investigated and passed by competent judges would tend to prevent infringement, and thus benefit the working-man inventor. As matters now stood, he could not fight the crowd of infringers who were always ready to strike in and make use of any new invention, and were anxious to make an easy profit by it. He had no chance of profiting by his patent, as he had no capital wherewith to fight these enemies, unless he allied himself to some firm or capitalist who could fight the battle for him. To this extent, then, he lost some part of that gain to which he was justly entitled, as he must share it with the capitalist. But, looking to this part of the case, he (Sir Henry Holland) would go further than the Bill. He would like to see a strong body of five skilled Commissioners, well-paid, and entirely devoted to the work of examining into and granting or refusing patents, whose certificate should be evidence in a Court of Law of the validity of a patent. He would not now attempt to define in detail the powers that should be granted to such Commissioners; but, speaking generally, he would invest them with the power of granting certificates of patents, which certificates should be proof of the validity of patents without any further evidence, and with the power, where they entertained doubts of the validity of a patent, whether on the ground of novelty, or upon any other ground, of passing the patent, but at the risk of the inventor, leaving him to fight it, if it was subsequently infringed, Some errors might occur, but he believed they would be few; and, on the other hand, litigation would be much checked and the working-man inventor much benefited. As far as he could learn, this system worked very satisfactorily in America; and he trusted that Her Majesty's Government would see their way to make this change here in the existing law. He trusted, further, that they would in any Bill deal more liberally in the matter of the reduction of fees than the President of the Board of Trade had led the House to hope for. The only point to secure was that the expenses of the Patent Office—an Office constituted in the main for the benefit of inventors—should be covered by the fees. The country ought not to look for any distinct gain of revenue from such fees. If we could reduce the fees, we might prevent that transmission of inventions to America, which there was good reason to believe was taking place to a considerable extent, and which was referred to by the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst). He (Sir Henry Holland) considered it far more important to reduce the fees than to extend the time during which a patent was secured. Indeed, upon this point he was at issue with the hon. Member for Glasgow, as he (Sir Henry Holland) thought that the term of 14 or 16 years would be quite sufficient, if the present power was retained to an inventor of applying to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a prolongation of his patent. This prolongation he could obtain if he could show that his patent was a valuable one, but that he had reaped very small or no profits from it for some time. But this question of extension of term was a matter of detail to be considered and settled in Committee, and he would not dwell further on it now. He should certainly vote with the hon. Member for Glasgow for the second reading of this Bill.


said, that the American system appeared to be preferred by most Members who had spoken. Under that system they had a competent Commission for examining inventions, and deciding whether they were fit subjects for patents. If, in their opinion, the invention was not a fit subject, a patent might be granted with an endorsement that the Commissioners were not able to grant a full certificate. The result was that they had on the one hand a clean certificate, and on the other a certificate with an endorsement to show that there was something behind. He would not support the Bill if he thought it entirely an inventors' question; but the reform of the Patent Laws was a question of public importance. It was a national question that we should have cheap patents, because by such means we should promote the invention of labour-saving machinery, and thus improve the manufacturing power of the country. The President of the Board of Trade had quoted the Report of the Royal Commission which sat 20 years ago, but he did not quote the Report of the Committee which sat since that time and showed that a great change in public opinion had taken place. He referred to the Report of the Committee over which his hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. B. Samuelson) presided, and since then the feeling in favour of a good Patent Law had grown stronger. That Committee reported— That the privilege conferred by letters-patent promotes the progress of manufactures, by causing many important inventions to be introduced and developed more rapidly than would otherwise be the case. The fees charged on patents went far to prevent the introduction of labour-saving machines into this country.: America was largely competing with us in this direction. In the matter of pianos, for instance, 21 patents were taken out by one firm, the cost of which in America amounted to £147; whereas the cost in this country would have been no less than £3,765. So that our manufacturers were heavily handicapped by the very large fees demanded for protecting inventors' rights. The American Patent Commissioner said— The records of this Office, as well as the history of manufactures, show the immense labours and achievements of inventors during the last half-century, but the end in no department is yet reached, the fields of invention are exhaust-less, and under protection wisely given the future will be richer in invention than the past. Again, in his Report for 1879, the American Patent Commissioner said— The Constitutional provision which confers upon Congress power to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries evidently imports, not that inventors are hateful monopolists to be taxed by the Government, but that they are public benefactors to be encouraged and rewarded. That this is the true theory the experience of our people with their patent system during the past century abundantly proves. The well known paper The Scientific American said— In the United States the main idea is that the inventor of any new and useful device is conferring a benefit upon the nation, and should, therefore, be protected in his invention. This is the correct theory, because it has succeeded in producing such astonishing results that other nations are gradually adopting it. Innumerable extracts to the same effect might be given from the leading scientific papers of America. The majority of our inventors were mechanics, whose daily occupation was with machinery and mechanical processes of every description, and who, therefore, had the greatest opportunity of seeing defects and thinking out improvements; they wanted only the incentive to produce innumerable improvements. The speciality of American invention was labour-saving tools, and it was chiefly by means of the excellence and economy of their labour-saving tools that the Americans were able to successfully compete with us. To stimulate our mechanics and invent labour-saving machines was, therefore, a matter of national importance. To take one instance, mentioned in The Times of the 26th of December, 1878— In the Waltham factory, with the aid of machinery, the labour of one man is equivalent to the production of 150 watches annually, whereas in England and Switzerland only 40 watches per annum are produced by each man employed in the trade. There is scarcely a branch of mechanical industry into which the inventive genius of the New England people has not introduced labour-saving machinery, which chiefly enables the manufacturers to sell their goods in those States on which they are almost dependent for the raw material, and even in European countries which have great natural resources and a super-abundance of cheap labour. The whole power of America to compete with us in the production of many of their manufactures arose from the use of labour-saving machinery. Workmen were encouraged to perfect the machinery with which they worked; and if we would compete with America we must reform our Patent Laws by greatly reducing our fees, extending the period of protection, and giving greater security to our inventors. Improvements in manufacture often depended, not on large and important inventions, but on improvements in small details in the machines used by the workmen employed on manufactures. In this way labour-saving machinery had been given to the world. He laid great stress, therefore, on that portion of this Bill which proposed to reduce the fees on patents. That was the first step in the right direction. He also approved the extension of time to be given to patents to 21 years. It was often years before a patent could get fairly into operation, and 14 years did not, he thought, provide an adequate reward. The proposed extension would not only be a boon to the inventor, but, by stimulating invention, would prove most advantageous to the industry of the country. He hoped his hon. Friend would take the sense of the House on the second reading of his Bill.


said, that a great deal had been said with respect to the advantages of the application of labour-saving machinery to manufactures in this country. His experience was that labour-saving machinery enabled the manufacturer to produce his goods at much less cost. The hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. Brown) had taken what he thought to be the broader view with regard to one part of the question, and that was that this was not a question for inventors only; and he entirely differed from the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) in speaking of this as being an inven- tors' Bill only. His opinion was that the question they had to consider was the question of advantage to the country at large. Mention had been made of the advantages of the Patent Laws to inventors, and of the high prices they had obtained for their inventions. He ventured to point out to the House that there was no invention which had ever been brought forward in this country which had proved of great service in which the benefit was not larger to the public generally than to the inventor himself. The President of the Board of Trade had drawn attention to the fact that perhaps the numerous patents which were taken out in America were not entirely due to the fact of the small fees charged for them; but it was remarkable in this debate to find such unanimity in this direction—that the lessening of the fees was one of the first objects to be aimed at in the amendment of the Patent Laws. As he had said, this had been spoken of as an inventor's question. The Chamber of Commerce of the town he had the honour to represent, and the Chambers of Commerce generally throughout the country, comprising as they did men who were not only inventors themselves, but also others who, as large manufacturers were interested in all inventions brought forward, had petitioned over and over again for the amendment of the laws with respect to patents; and he therefore hoped sincerely that the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) would go to a division, if, indeed, a division was necessary, because, as far as he was able to judge, the question might be agreed to without a division. Reference had been made to the great advances which America had made. No doubt, America had made great steps. They were also told that men in this country were taking their inventions to America and giving America the advantage of them. Personally, he had no experience on that side of the question; but he had some experience on the other side, that the Americans were year by year bringing to this country a larger and larger number of patents relating to manufacturing processes, and were reaping very large sums annually from those patents. He was, therefore, for lowering the fees in the initial stages. He was one of those who did not believe that the sum total was so much the question objected to by the inventor, as if the invention did not in 14 years enable the inventor to pay the amount at present charged, the invention was not of much value to the inventor or to the country. He believed, also, that by lowering the fees in the initial stage they would stimulate invention. He was exceedingly glad to hear from the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) that there was no desire on the part of the working classes to obstruct the introduction of machinery. He thought one of the steps which would very largely tend to get rid of the old fashioned prejudices against the introduction of machinery would be by reducing the fees of patents, and thereby encouraging and stimulating men who were engaged in manufacturing processes to make from time to time improvements which were likely to occur to them, and far more likely to occur to them than to others who were not engaged in the same business. There could be no doubt that the commercial supremacy of this country could only be maintained by one of two methods, or both methods combined—namely, that we must either maintain superior excellence in our manufactories, or we must be able to produce our goods for less than other countries. He was speaking now of competing in the markets of the world, because this country was year by year being run harder and harder in the race of competition; and he ventured to say this, that in the opinion of some of the Chambers of Commerce in this country far too little attention was paid in that House to questions affecting the commerce of the country. He, therefore, hoped the House would agree to the measure which had been brought forward by the hon. Member for Glasgow—not that he pledged himself to all its details; but he thought it would be of great advantage if the House expressed its unanimous opinion, as it would show the Government that there was great interest in this question, and that it was one which the country demanded should be dealt with. He ventured to say that the small attendance in the House that day was no indication whatever of the interest taken in the question in large towns. Our imports were increasing, but our exports of British produce and manufacture were not increasing; and although that was not the time to enter into the reasons of the cause; he ven- tured to say that it was desirable, as far as it was practicable, to encourage by all means in their power every attempt to increase the efficiency and the power of the manufacturers of this country to compete with their competitors abroad. He sincerely hoped that the hon. Member for Glasgow would proceed to a division if necessary, and he should have very great pleasure in supporting him.


said, that, as a Member of the Committee which sat in 1871 and 1872, he had listened to a large portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade with great satisfaction; but there was one part of it in which he could not agree—where he referred to the constitution of a better body of Commissioners. It was impossible for his learned Friends the Attorney General and Solicitor General, with their other laborious duties, to deal satisfactorily with applications for patents. The Committee had therefore recommended that the Commission should be reinforced by the appointment of competent persons having practical skill as well as scientific and technical knowledge, whose time was not too much engrossed by other employments to conduct the preliminary examination which ought to precede the grant of patents. The appointment of such a Commission would, he thought, he of very great importance. It was intended by the late Government to appoint additional Commissioners. The Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, and the two Law Officers were now the only Commissioners. From their numerous engagements it was very difficult to get a meeting of the Commissioners, and a great deal was left to the Master of the Rolls. He thought the hon. Member for Glasgow would be justified in taking a division on the second reading if it were not assented to by the Government. The extension of the term might very well be left to be dealt with in Committee.


said, he wished to explain. A good deal had been said about a new Commission for examining into each case before patents were granted. That was one question. Whether the present was the best body for doing what was now done was quite another. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade did not differ as to this—that if a preliminary inquiry should take place as to the novelty of the invention claimed, it would be impossible that it should be carried out by the present Commission. But what he called attention to was that this Bill did not deal with that point—it merely transferred to a new body precisely the same duties and very limited powers of the present Commissioners. The powers of the Law Officers appeared much greater than they really were. They had no power to refuse a patent, however old the alleged invention might be, and they were often obliged to grant patents which they knew would not be worth the paper on which they were written. They had, in fact, only power to inquire whether the specification was sufficient for provisional protection, and whether the invention was the subject-matter for a patent. His right hon. Friend had merely stated that a new Commission with such limited powers would be of no great advantage to the public. Whether or not it would be desirable to have a more extensive preliminary investigation was quite a different matter, on which he expressed no opinion.


said, the fact just acknowledged by the Solicitor General that the powers of the Law Officers of the Crown in the matter were so limited was only another argument in favour of more thorough reform of our Patent system. Twelve years had elapsed since he had stated in the House that he thought great danger would arise to our manufacturing system if we neglected to reform our Patent Laws, and next to nothing had in the meantime been done. He had had some experience on this subject, having taken out three or four patents in America, and upwards of 50 in England. The preliminary examination in England was totally inadequate. The American system was vastly superior. He went to America some years ago to take out a patent, and upon resorting to the Patent Museum at Washington—which, he might say by the way, was a great educational establishment—he was met by an examiner having his specification in hand. The examiner took him round the museum, where all the models were classified and arranged chronologically; the examiner pointed out to him where he had been anticipated by previous inventors. The result was that two hoads of his specification, were struck out, and a patent was granted for the other three. In this country a patent might be granted a dozen times over for the same thing which could not happen in America. There was a necessity for a thorough reform in this matter. This Bill was entirely in the right direction, but it merely touched the fringe of the question. Cheap patents were unquestionably desirable; but a cheap patent would be of little value to a poor inventor unless he had also cheap and efficient machinery for upholding and enforcing Patent rights. There was one expression which fell from the President of the Board of Trade which rather grated on his ear. He spoke of property in ideas. That expression had wrought great mischief in this country. No inventor had any property in ideas any more than an author. An author had no property in ideas; he had to put them on paper, or give them to the world in the form of a book. So an inventor had no property in his invention until he had made that invention public, and handed in drawings and specifications of his ideas; and, therefore, the inventor had no property in a mere idea. Again, it was an abuse of terms to regard an inventor as a monopolist, because he took nothing whatever from the public; on the other hand, he gave to the public a new machine, or a new process, which no one was compelled to adopt unless it answered his purpose. But, even if there were any truth in the suggestion that an inventor was a monopolist, the proper remedy would be to adopt the system of compulsory licences, a system he had suggested to the Select Committee which sat in 1872, and of which he was a Member. The American system of patents and the administration of the Patent Office were infinitely superior to that of this country, and he hoped that the hon. Member's Bill would be read a second time unanimously by the House.


said, he believed the sum now charged against the Patent Office as fees for the Law Officers of Ireland and Scotland, and amounting to about £3,500, was amply sufficient to provide three or four additional Commissioners to look after the granting of patents. These Officers had no official concern with the Patent Office duties, and these salaries and emoluments ought to be drawn in one Estimate, as now practised with regard to the English Law Officers whose fees were formerly charged against the Patent Office. One subject which was worthy of attention, as it might easily be, was the meagre nature of our annual Report on Patents, covering only three or four pages. The last Report was filled up with a long list of the headings under which the information about the patents were arranged. As compared with the admirable Report issued by the American Patent Office, it contrasted most unfavourably. He urged upon the English Law Officers, who were at present the Patent Commissioners, that they might at least do something to improve that part of the business. They had only to see that the gentlemen who were employed in the Patent Office gave a good and full account of the work done during the year; and, by availing themselves of the American Patent Office Report, they could easily summarize the results of the working of our own Patent Office and classify the many improvements extending over a series of years.


said, he thought that the House was indebted to the hon. Member for Glasgow for having brought under its notice a subject of so much importance to the industrial population of the country. But, for his own part, he regretted that the Bill of the hon. Member should have been encumbered by a proposal to extend the period for which patents should be granted. He was also of opinion that much larger powers should be conferred upon the Commissioners proposed to be appointed by this Bill, so as to enable them to winnow out the real from the unreal patents. Great inventors were often largely and justly rewarded under the present system; but the working man received far less than was his due under it; and his experience pointed to the fact that it was not the cost of obtaining the patent which usually stood in his way. In many instances he had known working men who had paid the deposit of fees out of their own savings or by the aid of others, but not in one instance had he observed a working man who was able really to obtain a patent for that which he had invented. A great multitude of unreal and non-original inventions at present patented stood in the way of the progressive improvement in the processes of manufacture which arose out of successive small inventions; and it frequently happened that a working man who, in the course of his daily labour, had had suggested to him an important, though slight, modification in some process or machine, was precluded from adopting it in consequence of the liability to litigation in which he would at once find himself involved. The objects which the Governments should endeavour to attain were two—in the first place, to reduce to the lowest possible limit the cost of obtaining a patent; and next, to give the Commissioners the largest power to weed out inventions which were not real, and so to place the working-man inventor in immediate possession of the facts he had to confront. If those objects could be attained, he did not doubt that an immense boon would be conferred, not only upon the working classes, but upon the country at large, by enabling it the better to meet increasing competition. In conclusion, he wished to acknowledge the ready co-operation which manufacturers continually received from their working men in carrying out improvements in their machinery. He should be glad if, in view of the objections to the Bill which he had pointed out, the hon. Member for Glasgow would not take the sense of the House upon his measure, but would be content with having elicited a strong expression of opinion in favour of Patent Law reform.


said, he fully endorsed the opinion which had been expressed—that this was a question which affected equally both inventors and the public, and that the effect of any measure of Patent Law reform would be more for the benefit of the country at large, than of the individual inventor. He hoped, if the hon. Member for Glasgow failed to carry his Bill, that if the President of the Board of Trade took up the question he would deal with it in a liberal spirit. He believed that in proportion as they grasped this question in a broad and comprehensive way so would they find good results to accrue; but he was satisfied that if they merely tinkered with the question Session after Session, the results would be much narrower than they would be if the question was grasped in a broad and comprehensive way. He believed that the only way of dealing with the question was to adopt a plan which would meet every re- quirement of the trade of the country. The large inventors had been able, in the past, to exercise a privilege, if not a monopoly, of wealth; but the working man, who had largely contributed to the acquisition of that wealth, had been denied the privilege of using such means as would have conduced to his welfare and prosperity in consequence of this great bar of expense in securing patents. They had heard a great deal to the effect of cheap patents in America; but the effect of cheap patents in America had not been merely to give to the American inventor privilege and profit, but to stimulate the trade of the country generally. It also stimulated the inventor, and influenced the whole population, as when one man succeeded with a patent it led others to study more closely in order that they might succeed also. In America the patentees secured their remuneration, not by charging a high price for the products of their patents, but by making it an almost invariable rule that the patented articles should be as productive as possible. They made quantity pay where, in many instances, a high price would not pay, and thus they stimulated production, and the whole nation got protection. We saw every day in this country various little domestic productions of American manufacture, which indicated very great ingenuity, but which would not be considered in the eyes of many manufacturers of large implements worthy of their consideration. But if they considered what the effect of all these small inventions was on the employment of labour in a country, they ought not to lose sight of the fact that the smallest possible products which employed very large numbers of workpeople were of importance both to the workpeople and to the consumers of the things produced. The President of the Board of Trade referred to the question of stimulating invention. He (Mr. Barran) had no hesitation in saying that if we could offer facilities in England, first of all for an inexpensive, and second for a secure investment in patents, we should stimulate invention very rapidly. The cost in the past had been the great barrier to invention in this country. In all our large manufacturing establishments, like that of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. J. Howard), where there were different departments, men who were at work at daily wages very seldom came in contact with the employer, and he knew this had very much, discouraged the skill, enterprize, and inventive genius of working men in such institutions. But if the working man felt that he could go beyond his work and secure for himself at a very small cost the benefit of his skill and invention we should get very much better results than we did at present. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had said that by the Bill as proposed we should further the process of invention without undue monopoly; but with safeguards such as would be given in any good Bill there would be no fear of a monopoly being got by the inventor. The fact was that at the present time the whole country was looking forward to a Patent Bill, and the unanimity that had been expressed in the House that day in connection with this important question was a very strong indication of what the feeling in the country was. In the large borough which he had the honour to represent (Leeds) the feeling throughout was that something ought to be done, and speedily done, to remedy the evil which at present existed, and this feeling was not confined to the working men, for all the manufacturers and merchants felt as much interest in it as the working men. Therefore, he felt that this question was not a question of any particular class; it was a question of the whole nation, and therefore it ought to be at the speediest possible time settled, and settled in a broad, comprehensive, and practical way.


contended that, as we had the same qualities and genius in this country as in America, there was no reason why we should not start from the same level as they did. He believed the success of the Americans, in respect to inventions, was due to the number of labour-saving appliances and superior tools, due to their liberal Patent Laws. If similar encouragement were given in this country, he did not doubt that the working men of this country would show equal inventiveness with their American brethren.


said, there was a remarkable growth of public opinion in regard to the Patent Laws, not only in this country, but in all countries. A few years ago a general feeling was arising against patents, and many most influential Statesmen in all countries were opposed to patents in principle. In our own country, leading Statesmen like the present Lord Chancellor and Lord Granville, Judges like Sir William Grove, and engineers of eminence opposed patents in principle. Abroad, Prince Bismarck published an able Memorandum against them. Lately, however, a general change had taken place all over Europe, and in this country also, and the necessity of encouraging instead of discouraging patents had been generally admitted. But, at the same time, it had been felt that our Patent Laws were in such an unsatisfactory state that a thorough reform of them was a necessity of the immediate future. There were two interests in regard to patents. There was the interest of the public and the interest of the inventors. In good patents these were identical, but in bad patents they were antagonistic; and anyone who attempted to reform the Patent Laws must keep this in view. He would illustrate his meaning. If we were travelling along a road—-the road of progress—every means of shortening the route was an advantage. If steps were cut on a hillside to shorten a zigzag road, it was a positive advantage, and the wayfarer would willingly pay a small royalty for their use. But if useless obstacles were thrown down on the road, tripping up the traveller at every step, the mischief was great. That was the case with good and bad patents. Good patents were an aid to the community; useless patents were an encumbrance. They generally came in a rush, and there might be difficulty in sifting out the wheat from the tares. The tree of knowledge was producing fruit, and the close observer noted the first apple which was ripe and plucked it. But there were many others waiting for the fruit to become mature. This Bill proposed, and proposed rightly, to cheapen patents. That was quite right; but then it followed that by cheapening patents it would lead to their multiplication. So much the better if the patents obtained were good patents, and so much the worse if they were bad. Patents generally arose as an answer to a formulated demand; and the question was how they were to get those in which the interests of the public and the inventors were identical? That could only be done by a system of examination, and this Bill provided no system of examination. Although, he agreed with many points of the Bill, he thought unless they adopted a good system of examination, that evil would result instead of good. The Bill also proposed to establish a Commission. He would like to see a Commission established; but the Bill gave no more power and duties to the Commissioners than the lawyers had at present, and, therefore, he believed the intention of the hon. Member would be of little value. Speaking as an individual Member of the House, it would be very painful for him to vote against the Bill. It was well intentioned, but it was not an efficient Bill. It had induced a capital discussion, and shown the general feeling of the House to be in favour of an alteration of the Patent Law. He hoped that the hon. Member would not force the House to a division, but allow the Bill to be read a second time on the understanding that a fuller and more comprehensive measure of reform than the present Bill was would eventually be introduced. With this view he hoped the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) would withdraw his Motion for the rejection of the Bill.


, in asking leave to withdraw his Amendment, explained that he had only moved it with a view of raising a discussion on the question.


said, he thought it would be very ungrateful of him, after the valuable discussion that had taken place, and the full expression of opinion on the subject from so many hon. Members, if he were to weary them with a long reply. So far as he understood, the feeling of the House generally was very much in favour, if not of all the principles of this Bill, at least of a large measure of Patent reform. But, to his mind, the most unsatisfactory speech of the day was that of the President of the Board of Trade. There were two points on which the right hon. Gentleman's speech was extremely unsatisfactory. One was, that he maintained, in an unqualified way, the position of the Law Officers of the Crown as the administrators of the Patent Office. The Solicitor General had since endeavoured to qualify that by saying that if greater duties were thrown on the Commissioners that might change the Government's opinions.

As to throwing more duties on the Commissioners, he should be happy to do that, but his object was first to get the Commissioners. He felt that a change in the present system from the Law Officers to Commissioners, whose primary duty would be to administer the Patent Law, would be an enormous step. There were words in the Bill that covered a great deal more than was generally supposed. These words were—"To perfect the organization of the Patent Office," showing that in desiring to have Commissioners he aimed at a great deal more than was defined in the Bill. The other point of the President of the Board of Trade that was to him unsatisfactory, was as to the reduction of the cost of patents. The right hon. Gentleman said he would go in for a substantial reduction of costs; but it was clear that substantial was a vague word, for the right hon. Gentleman also said that the charges proposed in the Bill involved too great a reduction, and that he was informed by the officials of the Patent Office that such a reduction as that would not pay. The right hon. Gentleman had allowed his mind to be impregnated with wrong ideas from the officials of the Patent Office. He (Mr. Anderson) told the right hon. Gentleman plainly that the charges in the Bill were far too high, not too low. The right hon. Gentleman must have gathered from the speeches of hon. Members that something nearer the American system of charges of £7 as the final and complete cost was what was wanted by the country; and to say that the charges in the Bill, which amounted to about £100, were too low, appeared to him (Mr. Anderson) preposterous and absurd. For these reasons it would have been necessary for him to take the sense of the House on the Bill; but he gathered that the principal objection of Mr. Dillwyn was as to the number of years proposed. That, however, was a matter of detail. His own opinion was in favour of 21 years, or of some considerable extension; but he would leave it to the Committee to decide what that extension should be. If a division was not challenged he should be grateful to the House for the second reading, though in the press of other Business he could not expect to carry the Bill this Session. The second reading would give the country the assurance that the House of Commons was committed to the main principles of the Bill—the appointment of Commissioners, and a large reduction of fees.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday 29th June.