§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. ALBAN GIBBS (London)
moved the Second Reading of this Bill, the object of which, he explained, was to amend the law respecting the registration of patent agents and to provide for the appointment of a Council, elected by the whole body of registered patent agents, to make lye-laws for them, keep the Register, and receive the registration fees. A similar Act, which was passed in 1888, ordered that no persons should describe themselves as patent agents without, being registered, but he was given to understand that that Act had been evaded by gentlemen who had not described themselves as patent agents but who had acted as such, and he understood a decision had been obtained that they were entitled to do so. At present, under the Act of 1888, the Register was kept by the Institute of Patent Agents, who were a very respectable body of gentlemen, high up in their professional calling, but they were only 60, and there were 241 patent agents, so they could not represent the whole body. It was proposed that the Council should be elected by the whole body of patent agents, and that the Council should receive the foes which should be for the profit of all patent agents and not, as at present, for the small body belonging to the Institute. That Insti- 1374 tute had received a Royal Charter and had made bye-laws which, however, had not obtained the assent of the Privy Council, and were, therefore, practically nugatory. The new Council would obtain power subject to proper assent being given to them to make bye-laws. He understood the hon. Member for Monmouthshire had brought in another Patent Agents Bill, and he should be happy to assent to that being referred to the same Select Committee as this Bill. He understood the President of the Board of Trade would offer no objection to the Second Reading of this Bill provided it was referred to a Select Committee, and for his part he should be happy to consent to such reference.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Alban Gibbs.)
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. A. J. MUNDELLA,) Sheffield, Brightside
said, he should not object to the Second Heading of this Hill provided the hon. Gentleman fulfilled the engagement he had just entered into with the House that this Bill, and the one about to be submitted by the hon. Member for Monmouthshire were both sent to the same Select Committee for the purpose of investigation. He could not accept this Bill as it stood, but he did not want to enter into any criticism upon it, because he thought the whole question must be thoroughly investigated by the Committee upstairs. No doubt under the Act of 1888 Rules and bye-laws wore laid down, which had proved a source of embarrassment and litigation, and it was desirable that the whole question should be thoroughly investigated. He should assent to the Second Reading on the understanding that this and the other Bill were then referred to a Select Committee.
§ * SIR J. LENG (Dundee)
said, if it had not been for the very late period of the Sitting at which the hon. Member had had an opportunity of introducing this Bill he should certainly have complained of the inadequacy of his statement respecting it, and he should, under other 1375 circumstances, also have opposed the Second Reading. It seemed to him that there were points in it seriously objectionable to two important classes—namely, the poor inventors, and those who had been practising as patent agents, and whose interests were seriously affected by the Bill. However, he agreed with the President of the Board of Trade that these matters could be more thoroughly discussed and decided in Committee, and on the understanding that had been entered into he should not oppose the Bill, but should take an opportunity of raising his objections in Committee.
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, that anyone who had a personal acquaintance with this matter would be of opinion that some legislation was necessary. The Rules made under the Act of 1888 worked very well to a certain extent, but it was found necessary that there should be some means of charging fees, and at present it was doubtful whether these fees could be legally charged. He must say it was impossible for anybody to assent to the Second Reading of this Bill without a clear understanding that the whole matter should be considered by a Select Committee, unfettered by any expression of opinion with respect to the status of the existing patent agents and the Institute of Patent Agents, who had done most useful work. It required very careful consideration whether any second body should be allowed to be set up, and whether the proper course would not be to modify the Regulations which at present affected the Institute of Patent Agents so that justice might be done to all parties. He should not have supported the Bill but for the statement that this and the other kindred measure should be referred to a Select Committee with an absolutely free hand, so that the Committee might do what they considered the best in the circumstances.
§ MR. WARMINGTON (Monmouth, W.)
said, he accepted the offer of the hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to referring his (Mr. Warmington's) Bill, together with that of the hon. Gentle- 1376 man, to a Select Committee. He did not want the House to be fettered, and he desired that the Select Committee should have the freest possible powers in dealing with these measures.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
objected to the Bill to some extent, and although he should not, under the circumstances, object to the Second Reading, it must be clearly understood that in taking this course he did not vote for anything beyond this—that after the Second Reading this, together with the other Bill, should be referred to a Select Committee.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.