HC Deb 22 April 1901 vol 92 cc905-6

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that two of the members of Lord Rayleigh's Committee on Explosives are taking out patents in their own names for improvements in detonators and nitro-explosives for artillery; and whether this action is consistent with their position as members of the Committee on which they are serving.


Sir William Roberts-Austen and Sir William Crookes, members of the Explosives Committee, have taken out patents in connection with explosives. These patents were taken out with my authority. The specifications were prepared by the patent expert of the War Office, and have been assigned to the Secretary of State for War, the arrangements having been made by the Treasury Solicitor, and the specifications are kept secret. These gentlemen having, in the course of their experiments as members of the Committee made certain discoveries which the Committee considered might prove of value to the State, placed their discoveries unreservedly at the disposal of His Majesty's Government. They have not received, nor do they desire to receive, any payment for the discoveries so made. They have not got, nor do they intend to get, any personal profit out of them. The only reason why the patents have been taken out is that the Committee may not be debarred by some subsequent inventor from making use of their own results. It is obvious that, unless the Government directs either the publication or the patenting of such discoveries as they are made, this danger cannot be avoided. The Committee are studiously careful to avoid everything approaching to appropriation of discoveries communicated to them by inventors.


Have these gentlemen dealt with the foreign rights in the patents?


So far as the Government think it necessary to obtain the foreign rights, the question of those rights will be considered.

MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

Was there not a similar transaction with reference to the invention of cordite?

[No answer was returned.]