HC Deb 04 July 1902 vol 110 cc852-79

This Bill has been drafted in the first place to amend the law with regard to the examination of previous specifications in the United Kingdom on applications for patents, and, secondly, to amend the law relating to the granting of compulsory licences. With respect to the first of these questions, there is not, I believe, very much difference of opinion. It is generally admitted that the change which we propose, with regard to the first proposal I have mentioned, will be a valuable amendment of the law, but it is otherwise with the second proposal, which deals with compulsory licences. I was aware at the time I introduced the Bill that considerable difference of opinion existed in regard to some of these proposals, and for that reason I allowed a considerable interval to elapse between the First and Second Reading of the Bill, in order to give those interested an opportunity of studying its provisions, and I undertook to consider carefully, and with an open mind, any suggestions that might be made to me. Since the publication of the Bill I have had a good many representations made to me, and I have received an important deputation representing the Chambers of Commerce of the country, and the members of this deputation took exception to some of the provisions of the second Clause. I could not agree with all the representations made to me by this deputation, but at the same time I could not but recognise that there was considerable force in many of those representations, and I have since done my best to meet those objections so far as it was possible for me to do so. I believe that the changes which I am about to introduce are of a kind which will prove satisfactory to the commercial community generally, and will be accepted as a reasonable solution of what is undoubtedly a somewhat difficult problem.

I will confine myself to explaining shortly the main respects in which the amended Clause 2, which I shall have to move in Committee, differs from the provisions of the Bill in the form in which it was introduced. The first point deals with the phrase "reasonable requirements of the public." The event on which the Committee recommended that a patentee should be required to grant compulsory licences was— When it is made to appear that the reasonable requirements of the public in reference to the invention have not been satisfied by reason of the neglect or refusal of the patentee to work the patent or to grant licences on reasonable terms. It has been represented to me that the phrase "reasonable requirements" is not sufficiently explicit, and in particular that it does not specifically include the reasonable requirements of the producing portion of the public as opposed to that of the consumers. I think the Committee intended "the, reasonable requirements of the public" to include producers as well as consumers. But if any doubt exists on tills point I think it is important that it should be removed. Accordingly I propose in the amended Clause that the Bill shall clearly indicate the cases in which the reasonable requirements of the public are to be deemed not to be satisfied for the purposes of the Clause. The amended Clause accordingly provides that: The reasonable requirements of the public shall not be deemed to have been satisfied if by reason of the default of the patentee to work his patent or to manufacture the patented article in the United Kingdom to an adequate extent, or to grant licences on reasonable terms, any existing industry or the establishment of any new industry is prejudiced, or the demand for the patented article is not reasonably met. I do not suggest in reference to the new form of the Clause that it goes very much beyond what was contained in the original Clause, but it makes it much clearer. As amended, if any existing industry or the establishment of any new industry is prejudiced by the failure of the patentee to work his patent, or to grant licences, the reasonable requirements of the public are not to be held by the Court to have been satisfied. The next point refers to the revocation of patents in extreme cases. It has been represented to me by this deputation and in the communications, which I have received on this subject, that there are cases in which the grant of compulsory licences will not effectively remedy the evils complained of, and in which the only real remedy will be the revocation of the patent. It is not denied that there are a good many cases in which the grant of compulsory licences will afford a sufficient remedy, and in such cases it would be hard on the patentee, and would by no means be in the interest of the public to inflict the extreme penalty of forfeiting his patent. It is also obvious that the more severe the penalty the more difficult it will be to make out a case for its infliction. I propose, therefore, to retain the provisions of the Clause which enabled persons interested to obtain the grant of compulsory licences.

But at the same time there may be, and probably are, cases in which the grant of compulsory licences will be an insufficient remedy, and in which in the interests of the public it would be right to revoke the patent. It is, therefore, proposed by the amended Clause to empower the Court to revoke the patent if they are of opinion that the reasonable requirements of the public will not be satisfied by the grant of licences; but this power is given subject to the proviso that no order of revocation shall be made before the expiration of three years from the grant of the patent, or if the patentee gives satisfactory reasons for his default. This proviso is in accordance with the arrangement which is embodied in the additional Act of the 14th of December, 1900, amending the International Convention of 1883. To this Act this country has given its adherence, and it is expected that it will very shortly come into force throughout the Union. Having so agreed to this I think it would be a breach of faith if this proviso was not inserted in the Bill. The amended Clause will, therefore, only enable the court to revoke patents in extreme cases where the patentee is unable to give satisfactory reasons for his default, and where, in the opinion of the court, the case will not be met by the grant of compulsory licences. I think this is a reasonable compromise between the extreme views. I think this proposal is free from the objections to which most proposals for the compulsory working of patents have been open. It will not injure the poor inventor who cannot afford to manufacture either at home or abroad under his patent. It is aimed at the monopolists who, while manufacturing abroad, take out patents in this country mainly with the object of preventing patented articles from being manufactured here.

There is one other point in which I propose to amend the Bill, and it relates to the tribunal for the purposes of the Clause. Under the Clause as originally drafted, in accordance with a recommendation of Sir Edward Fry's Committee, the High Court was substituted for the Board of Trade as the tribunal to determine whether or not a patentee is in default, and on what terms, if any, he may be required to grant compulsory licences. The Committee based their recommendation in this respect on the ground that— Proceedings under the Section may affect interests of a very high pecuniary value, and that they ought to be safeguarded in the same manner as proceedings in an ordinary litigation, and not entrusted to any branch of the executive Government. It is undoubtedly a serious matter to entrust to any branch of the executive Government the decision of a case in which enormous pecuniary interests may be involved, but it has been represented to the Board of Trade that the transfer of this jurisdiction to the High Court is open to the objection that it may lead to protracted litigation, with appeals to the House of Lords. I propose that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, from whom there will be no appeal, and who have for many years dealt with petitions for the extension of patents, should be the tribunal to deal with petitions for compulsory licences and the revocation of patents. In order to prevent unnecessary litigation and expense, the petitions in the first instance will be made to the Board of Trade, who will have the power to dismiss them, or to refer them to the Judicial Committee if they consider it desirable to do so. Having regard to the recommendation of Sir Edward Fry's Committee, the Board will not have power themselves to require the grant of compulsory licences or to refuse patents.

The last point upon which I propose to amend Clause 2 deals with a special provision where the patented article is manufactured exclusively or mainly abroad. I propose that if the complainant can show that the patented article is mainly or exclusively manufactured abroad, the burden of proof that the reasonable requirements of the public in respect of the invention are satisfied should be thrown on the patentee. In such cases, where there is a primâ facie reason for suspecting that the patent has been taken out with the object and result of obstructing manufacture in this country, it appears to be only reasonable that the patentee should be placed under this obligation, having regard to the monopoly which has been conceded to him by the State. It is accordingly proposed in the Clause, as amended, to provide that if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Judicial Committee that the patented article is manufactured exclusively or mainly outside the United Kingdom, the petitioner shall be entitled to an order for a compulsory licence, or as the case may be, to an order for the revocation of the patent, unless the patentee can show that the reasonable requirements of the public have been satisfied. These constitute the principal changes which I propose to introduce during the Committee stage. I hope that the House will allow this Bill to pass this afternoon, in order that it may be referred to the Grand Committee on Trade. I feel sure that in this form the Bill will give general satisfaction to the commercial community, and will be regarded as an important and valuable amendment of the patent law. I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill.

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

(3.20.) MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)

said the President of the Board of Trade had only referred to Clause 2 of this Bill, and had passed over Clause 1, which proposed to make the most important change of all in regard to the law of patents. This Bill proposed a most extraordinary change, for it required the examiner to go back in regard to every invention and specification for a period of fifty years. He had to go over every specification that was lodged. Subsection 2 of Clause 1 provides— If on investigation it appears that the invention has been wholly or in part claimed or described by any such specification, the applicant shall be informed thereof, and the applicant may, within such time as may be prescribed, file an amended specification, and the amended specification shall be investigated in like manner as the original specification. That was a very heavy responsibility to place upon any official. Subsection 9 provides— The investigations and reports required by this section shall not be held in any way to guarantee the validity of any patent, and no liability shall be incurred by the Board of Trade or any officer thereof by reason of, or in connection with, any such investigation or report, or any proceeding consequent thereon. This was a most extraordinary change in the existing law. After the report was received it might be necessary to amend the specification, and then it would be necessary to go through the whole of the specifications for the previous fifty years to see whether the amended specification was correct or not. There was no limit as to how often the amended specification might be gone into. The Act required that the reports of the examiners were not to be published and were not accessible to the public and could only he produced if the Courts required their production. Then subsection 5 of Clause 1 provided that— If the comptroller is satisfied that no objection exists to the specification on the ground that the invention claimed thereby has been wholly or in part claimed by a previous specification as before mentioned, he shall, in the absence of any other lawful ground of objection, accept the specification. Therefore there was to be no opportunity of a person exercising his own judgment on the matter, and he was bound to accept the report of the examiner. There was the usual proviso that there was to be an appeal from the decision of the comptroller. It seemed to him that this great change was being introduced without any adequate reason. He could quite understand that the validity of a patent should be determined once for all by using all this machinery; but he did not think that there was any warrant whatever for imposing the duty of inquiring into the validity of a specification on an examiner. Another important change, made by the Bill was that the period for lodging a complete specification was reduced from nine months to six months. In previous legislation the period was extended instead of being reduced. In regard to the question whether an invention had been anticipated by reason of its publication, the Bill charged the examiner with the responsibility of examining specifications extending over a period of fifty years. Upon this it might be necessary for an applicant to amend his specification, and there appeared to be no limit to examination and amendment, while a charge of £3 was to be made for the investigation. But why not leave it to the person interested to make the inquiry for himself? He did not think that the interests of the public were properly safeguarded by the Bill. For instance, in Clause 2 nothing was said about the patent being worked in the United Kingdom. It only stated that if the reasonable requirements of the British public were not met by the patentee by the issue of licences, the patent might be revoked. At the present moment, under the existing law, the tribunal which dealt with the issue of compulsory licences was the Board of Trade; and he was surprised that the tribunal was to be transferred from the Board of Trade, which had got experts to guide them, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He regarded the change as very unfortunate, and one for the worse. He trusted that when the Bill got into Committee it would be very carefully amended.


I had the good fortune to be a member of the Committee on the Patent Laws, and had the honour of introducing the very important deputation to my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade in regard to the second Clause. I may be allowed, therefore, to say a few words on the Second Reading of this important Bill. I do not understand the objection of the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Mid Lanark to this Bill. He seems to object to it root and branch, and to object to any reform of the patent law at all. But I believe that there is a general opinion in the House and in the country that some reform, some improvement, should be made in the patent law. There are some, even, who desire to see very drastic alterations made. As to the first Clause of the Bill, the changes which the hon. Member for Mid Lanark objects to so much were recommended by the Committee after very careful consideration. Many revolutionary changes were brought before the Committee, but what the Committee desired was to make use of all the information in the Patent Office for the benefit of the country. It has been the custom of the Patent Office to tabulate the various specifications so that they may be easily referred to. All that the first Clause of the Bill says is that that information shall be carried further and made available to any one who comes forward and desires to take out a patent. No doubt the examiner under this Clause has certain duties to perform in regard to the patentee, which put him in the position, practically, of an assistant to the patentee. He practically said to the patentee, "We will inform you if there are any specifications, which, in whole or in part, anticipate the patent you wish to take up." That having been done, the patentee has all the information he desires; he may go and examine the specifications for himself, and he can either withdraw his own specification or amend it. There is no responsibility on the examiner; it is the patentee who takes the full responsibility. The hon. Gentleman objected to an appeal, but after the amended specification has been examined, if the examiner still thinks that some previous specifications existed which would stand against the new patent applied for, the amended specification may go forward with certain marks upon it referring to previous specifications. The object of the Clause is to protect the patentee, and assist him, and to protect the public if necessary. The appeal to which the hon. Gentleman objected is also in order that the patentee may be again protected, but it is a proceeding which the patentee can try to avoid if he likes. I think it would be a very great pity if those valuable records in the Patent Office were not made available to the public; and I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman carefully examines this Clause again he will find that it throws a flood of light on the patents in the office, and that a great deal of time and expense will be saved.

So much for the first Clause. In regard to the second Clause, I can say from my own knowledge that the public ought to be very grateful indeed to the President of the Board of Trade for the very great trouble which he has taken to try and meet their wishes. This is a very difficult and thorny question; and those whom I represent, holding very strong views, had very drastic proposals to put before my right hon. friend. Anything like compulsory license given by a foreign patentee to manufacturers in this country would not meet the case. The foreign patentee acts as a dog in the manger, sends his patented articles to this country, but does nothing to have the patented articles manufactured here. He commands the situation, and so our industries are, under our own law, starved in the interest of the foreigner, We are quite prepared to compete with the foreigner, but it should be on fair terms. Those who feel most strongly on this question think that there should be nothing but an absolute revocation of the patent, if it is not worked in tin's country within two years, and the Fry Commission was of that opinion also. Sir Edward Fry, the Chairman of the Committee, felt the great difficulty there would be in any court of law in this country deciding what was the meaning of "reasonable terms." My right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade said that while he appreciated all the reasons for the course suggested by the Fry Commission, he could not go quite as far The right hon. Gentleman, however, has since gone a considerable distance. He has introduced Amendments in the second Clause, which gives the power of revocation of the patent under certain circumstances. The consequence is that. 'I am in a position to say that those with whom I have been acting, and all those in this country who are personally interested in this question, are well satisfied with the Clause now proposed by my right hon. friend. It does not fulfil their ideal, but it goes a very long way in the direction they wish to go. At any rate it is an immense improvement on the present position, and therefore it is acceptable.

As to the change of tribunal referred to by the hon. Member of Mid-Lanark, the Committee felt that the appeal should no longer remain with the Board of Trade. I think that there is an amount of difficulty and delicacy in dealing with questions of this sort, that it would be far better if they were considered after argument on both sides by a tribunal which is accustomed to weigh evidence, than to continue the informal manner in which the Board of Trade has hitherto considered appeals. Everybody, I think, admits that the formal proceeding was not a fair one. The recommendation of the Committee was that there should be an appeal to the Court of Appeal. The objection to this has been made that that would lead to delay, which difficulty would not occur if the appeal is made to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. There may be questions which are worthy of further investigations in Committee, but I trust that the House will allow the Second Reading to be now taken.


Of course this Bill ought undoubtedly to be read a second time, but I think it will re quire to be carefully dealt with in Committee. The hon. Baronet opposite said that it was desirable that Parliament should furnish information as much as possible to patentees; but I observe that the first Clause goes beyond giving information. It imposes on the examiner the duty of going through specifications for fifty years, in order to see whether he will accept a new specification or an amended specification from a would be patentee; and on all that an appeal lies to the law courts. Now, these requirements may impose a very long and difficult inquiry. I do not want to express a final opinion on this point, but only to say at present that it seems to be a serious thing. As to Clause 2, I entirely agree with what the hon. Baronet said about the necessity of revoking patents granted in this country to foreigners who do not work them here. Nothing can be more absurd or more outrageous than that a foreign patentee can come here and get a patent and use it, not for the purpose of encouraging the industries of this country, but to prevent our people doing what they otherwise would do. To allow our Jaws to be used to give a preference to foreign enterprise is, to my mind, ridiculous. I do not know whether the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman are adequate to meet the case, for we have not yet seen them in print, in regard to the shifting of the appeal from the Board of Trade to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, or to the High Courts of Justice, I thoroughly deprecate taking such questions as these to the High Courts of Justice, then to the Appeal Court, and then to the House of Lords. Everyone must admit that that would be a procedure most tedious, costly, uncertain, and unsatisfactory. I congratulate litigants on having the opportunity of getting to the highest tribunal at once, I am certain that if this work is to he discharged by a non-administrative Department, it could not be more competently dealt with than by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. 1 am not sure whether it would not be better to have an administrative Department, assisted by the best legal and technical ability, to decide these patent questions; but if the House thinks that the appeal should he to a legal tribunal, the Privy Council is by far and away the ablest and most satisfactory that could be found in this country.


It must be very satisfactory to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that the Bill has met with a general approval so far. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, who did not join in that approval, did not realise the strength of the Committee on the Patent Laws whose Report is embodied in body of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman spoke disrespectfully of that Committee as a Committee of lawyers. If he looks at the Report he will find that there were on it not only eminent lawyers but strong representatives of Government Departments and of the industrial and commercial enterprises of the country. The first Clause of the Bill carries out almost exactly the recommendations made by that very strong Committee, and in the whole course of the recommendations made to the Board of Trade since the Bill was introduced, no dissent has been made to the proposals of this first Clause. The evil with which this Clause is intended to deal, everyone admits is a most serious one. Of course, at present a patent may be refused on the objection of anyone who has a locus standi; but it is necessary to go further. The first Clause, therefore, makes provision for an inquiry into the specifications for fifty years prior to the lodgment of the specification of a new patent. The results of that inquiry and the materials which the Patent Office possesses will be put at the service of the public. In regard to the second clause, I think that even the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark will be satisfied that it is most valuable. The existing provisions in reference to patents taken out by foreigners, and which arc not worked here, have been found to be absolutely inoperative. A patent is supposed to be granted for the encouragement of manufacturers in this country. But under the existing laws a large number of patents are taken out by foreigners solely for the purpose of preventing the encouragement of manufactures in this country. Something has been said as to whether the appeal under this clause should be to an administrative body like the Board of Trade, or to a judicial body. Nobody has anything but admiration for the Board of Trade as an Administrative Department, but I think that as the matters at issue involve consideration of the rights of property, and that it is desirable that there should also be a unanimous current of decision, so that all concerned would know what has been decided in regard to points raised, it should be a judicial body, and that nothing could be better than the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That body already enjoys jurisdiction in regard to patents and the promulgation of patents.


Will the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council take evidence as a Court of First Instance?


Of course there will be evidence taken, and it must be in writing, or oral, according to the circumstances of the case. What we want is uniformity in the settlement of the decisions. I agree with my hon. and learned friend the Member for Dumfries Burghs that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is a better tribunal than the High Court. In the High Court there are judges of the highest eminence, but there are many of them, and it is not certain that they would all take the same view of the same matter in the same way. But by sending these questions to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the lines on which decisions are arrived at will be laid down from the first, and everyone concerned in patents will get to know the result that is to be expected in a given case.

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

I think the House will agree that the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in moving the Second Reading will make this a more satisfactory Bill than it was on its first introduction. But I confess to a feeling of disappointment that we have not got a little farther than the proposals now announced by the President of the Board of Trade. Anyone who is actively engaged in commerce, especially those who arc acquainted with patent laws, cannot help feeling how very much we are behind other countries, especially France, Germany, and America, who are our chief competitors, in the markets of the world, in the matter of patent laws. I had hoped that the Board of Trade, after many years consideration on this question, and the pressure put upon it by the commercial community, would have taken a little more courage in reforming our patent laws. The difficulty of dealing with foreigners, to whom patents had been granted in this country for years past, and who never intended to work their patents here, is certainly great. The proposal to be embodied in the Bill will deal with the worst part of this matter, but I think the right hon. Gentleman need not have been afraid of making the clause considerably more drastic than it is. If foreigners come here and ask protection for their patents why should they not give a quid pro quo in the way of protection for our patents, in their countries? I should have liked to have seen the proposal for the investigation of specifications go further. I think the Bill will be very misleading to the class of working men inventors. If they are assured that investigations have been made for fifty years, they will regard that as a guarantee, although the Bill states that the patent is to be regarded as no more certain than to begin with. I think that this is an instance of very timid legislation indeed. It would be more to the advantage of a patentee if he paid a little more for his patent, and then be quite sure that it was good when he got it. I think that; might be secured by obtaining the best skilled advice on the part of the Board of Trade. I know that that entails the setting up of a Department of the Board which would have not only advisory, but judicial powers, and that that might not be very satisfactory to the lawyers. It is proposed in the Bill to take the jurisdiction away from the Board of Trade on questions as to whether patents shall be revoked, and given to a Court of Law; but for my part I would prefer that it should be kept in the hands of the Board of Trade. These proposals will, no doubt, receive very careful attention from that very efficient Committee, the Grand Committee on Trade, and I have no doubt they will emerge from it improved. I feel, however, it is advisable, when the opportunity arises, to encourage the President of the Board of Trade to look at his Department as being more important than it is generally regarded in this House. We want the President of the Board of Trade to lie raised to the dignity of a Secretary of State, and that his office should be equal in importance to any other office under the Crown; because I am convinced that commercial questions will not receive proper treatment until we have a Minister of Commerce in this House with all the authority of a Secretary of State.

(4.32.) SIR JOSEPH LAWRENCE (Monmouth Boroughs)

I was a member of a deputation which waited on the President of the Board of Trade to impress on the right hon. Gentleman the importance of compulsory working. An English manufacturer is at present seriously handicapped as compared with a German, a French, or even an American manufacturer. If an Englishman takes out a patent in Germany, he has to comply with all the patent regulations in that country; and if he exports a patented article, he runs the risk of forfeiting his patent in Germany, and has the certainty of having to pay an import duty. On the other hand, a German may take out a patent in Great Britain, manufacture the article in Germany, and export it to this country, without running any risk whatever of losing his patent, and he has not to pay any import duty. That is the gravamen of our complaint with regard to the patent laws. We know that if a system of compulsory working were enacted, it would fall hardly in some cases, but the present principle has operated in this country to the disadvantage of the English manufacturer. The Bill, as originally introduced, merely provided for a legal interpretation of the principle of compulsory licence. The Chambers of Commerce of this country, and leading manufacturers, especially men, like myself, who are at the head of large industrial undertakings, controlling, perhaps, five or six patents, feel that compulsory licences would not be sufficient. We desire the enactment, if possible, of the Belgian patent law, which requires compulsory working after three years. We know that in the case of France and Germany the principle of compulsory working has been carried out somewhat harshly. There is the well-known case of the armoured train maker who had a patent in France. At the end of three years he was notified by the French Government that his patent was likely to be confiscated. He appealed, and in his appeal he said he had offered the opportunity of making these armoured trains to the French Government. They were the only customer who could use his patent. The French War Office had the matter under consideration for eighteen months, and at the end of that time they declined the patent. Consequently, there was no other customer in France who could use his patent, and, notwithstanding that, the Government confiscated it. That was a case in which we considered that the law was harshly and unfairly put into operation against the inventor under the compulsory working principle. The clause as amended by the President of the Board of Trade, while stopping short of the actual acceptance of the principle of compulsory working, still gives us some measure of freedom. It all depends, however, as to how the phrase "reasonable requirements" is interpreted. The qualifications that the President of the Board of Trade proposes to introduce in Clause 2 will give us, in our judgment, some measure of relief. Our habit of piecemeal and makeshift methods of legislation must, however, continue. We feel that the measure, as amended, will not turn out to be an ideal measure; but still, if the Second Reading is passed, and if the material Amendments which the President of the Board of Trade arid the Chambers of Commerce have agreed in are adopted, plus some minor Amendments, we feel that the measure is capable of being made into a very useful instalment of reform in the patent laws. For that reason, I myself, and the Chambers of Commerce—who, en one occasion, did me the honour of asking me to be their spokesman at a deputation—hope the House will pass the Second Reading of the Bill and send it to a Committee. If, at the end of three or five years, we find we are not getting the full measure of relief for which we are asking, we can then come to Parliament with a further demand for the reform of our patent laws.

With regard to Clause 1, our complaint is, not that it goes too far, but that it does not go far enough. That part of the administration of our patent laws has been nothing short of a scandal. Patents have been granted for a number of worthless things, bogus patents have been taken out by the score; and those-engaged in large industrial undertakings know, to their cost, how harassed they have been by the presentation to them from time to time of such patents, which have for their object blackmail. The modified form of examination proposed under Clause 1 will lead, in our judgment, to the elimination of a large number of worthless and bogus patents. We would have desired that the Bill had gone farther, and so have brought our patent laws up to the level of those of Germany and America, where the examination extends not merely to the question of anticipation, but also to the questions of novelty and of merit; but, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, we are thankful to the President of the Board of Trade, and to the Committee which considered this question, for having conceded even this small measure of reform and improvement. With regard to Clause 2 we will have occasion — those of us who take an active interest in this question—to bring before the Committee some minor improvements having for their object the liberalising of the words "reasonable requirements," because on the phrase depends a great deal as to how the Clause will be interpreted. With all the imperfections we see in the amended Clause at present, we still gratefully accept it; and I desire to associate myself with the hon. Baronet in the hope he has expressed that this Bill, with the Amendments foreshadowed by the President of the Board of Trade, may be passed unanimously today.

MR. BRIGG (Yorkshire, W. R, Keighley)

On behalf of a large number of working men inventors, I desire to thank the President of the Board of Trade for the Bill he has brought in, and to acknowledge that some good will be done by it. Although not an inventor myself, I have lost a great deal of money in connection with inventions. I am frequently consulted with regard to them; and at the present moment I have in my pocket two or three inquiries from men who desire to know how they should proceed in order to patent inventions. A system was adopted some years ago of sending to a number of public institutions throughout the country copies of patents which had been taken out, in order to enable persons desirous of obtaining information on the subject to look over them, and to find out facts which might be of service to them in bringing out further inventions. I do not know to what extent the system was availed of; but I do know that in many instances it was very inconveniently carried out. In some cases, accommodation was provided for the books in free libraries and other institutions, but in many cases the arrangement was so bad that it was exceedingly difficult for men—especially working men, to whom we arc often indebted for inventions — to obtain the information they desired. Therefore, I I think that Clause 1 will be very advantageous to working men inventors, who now have to seek a large amount of information for themselves, in enabling them to carry out their patents. The difficulty in the patent laws at present is that they are exceedingly complex. There are, of course, patent agents, who are specialists in their way; but inventors hesitate very much before consulting them. As regards the second Clause, a very gross case has arisen, which no doubt has given rise to the alteration in the law now proposed by the President of the Board of Trade Many years ago an Englishman invented aniline dyes; but in course of time the Germans followed out the same idea, and the consequence has been that at the present moment materials for making these dyes are exported from our gasworks, and the dyes are imported at an enormous cost. I agree with my lion, friend the Member for Halifax that more might have been done; but we will be thankful to take what we will get under this Bill.

* SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)

While I agree that this is neither a great nor a courageous measure, I do think that it is desirable that it should be passed. The President of the Board of Trade has lost no time in his endeavours to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee he appointed. The objection of my hon. friend the Member for Mid Lanark that the Bill will throw a serious amount of work and responsibility on the officials of the Patent Office, is no objection whatever. Our officials never hesitate to do work that they are called upon to do in the interests of the country; and, as a rule, the members of the Civil Service do their work exceedingly well. It does not come within the purview of this Bill, but I should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had gone further in respect to patent fees. I do not agree with my hon. friend the Member for Halifax that higher fees should be paid. My complaint is that our inventors arc too highly taxed already. For a number of years past a surplus of £100,000 has been shown, in addition to which, those splendid Patent Office buildings, the erection of which was so commendable, have been built out of the fees. I think our inventors should have as much as possible for the fees they pay. I should be very glad to take this opportunity of bringing under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the desirability, now that we have so much talk of Empire and Imperial regulations, of providing that patents taken out in this country or in any of our Colonies, should run through the Empire and should be recognised throughout the whole of the Empire. The preliminary examination provided in the Bill, although it will not amount to an absolute guarantee of validity, will be of great value to many poor inventors who send in specifications thinking they have hit on something original, which in fact had been frequently anticipated. By this examination they will be informed that they are under a delusion, that what they thought was original has been in existence for a considerable time, and that it is no use wasting money in pursuing it. On the whole I think this Bill will be a real advance on our existing legislation; and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will be encouraged by the manner in which it has been received to still further improve it.


I congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on this Bill; but I hope when Clause 2 is considered some means will be found of strengthening subsection 1. Under that sub-section it is thrown on any person to prove a negative. That is a very difficult task. He has not only to prove a negative in regard to himself, but a negative in regard to the public also. The greater the industry, the greater the requirements; and he has to show that the reasonable requirements of the public have not been satisfied. I, therefore, hope that when the Clause is considered we may be able to make it incumbent on the foreign owner of a patent to show that the reasonable requirements of the public are being satisfied. This is a matter in which deep interest is taken in Manchester, and I hope we shall be able to persuade the Government to strengthen the Clause in the direction I have indicated.

MR. CEIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)

I desire to say a few words on this Bill, having regard to the interest taken in it in the district I represent, and also because I have had some legal experience in these matters. Of course the difficulty in all patent law is to reconcile on the one side the true rights of inventors, and on the other side not to interfere with general industrial interests. The second section deals with those difficult points in a most satisfactory manner. I am not now referring to any verbal alterations, but I am dealing with the section as it stands as a general declaration of policy. At the present moment, after an inventor has shown enormous skill and ingenuity as regards a new invention, the whole benefit of it, so far as he is concerned, may he upset by the fact that that invention, or some portion of it, appears to be disclosed in some prior specification. The present Bill, however, provides for a considerable prima facie investigation in order to protect the inventor against that risk. I think an inventor ought to be protected, as far as possible, against a risk of that kind, and ought not to be defeated owing to a technical objection like that. Under the Bill, if such a difficulty is disclosed, the inventor is given an opportunity of altering his specification. I, therefore, welcome that provision. I do not believe for one moment that it will throw any undue burden on the officials of the Patent Office; but even if it did that is no reason for not amending the law. On the other hand, it will protect the bona fide inventor from great risk, to which he should not be subjected. As regards section 2, it is unduly harsh that a great industry should be prevented from developing, because of some paper patent with a mere paper validity, under which no work is carried on, but which is able to prevent others undertaking similar work. The idea is to encourage inventors, and not to allow anyone who, for a small sum may take out a speciation at the Patent Office, to put a block on other people in carrying on what may be a most beneficial industry. I quite agree with the hon. Member opposite, for that should apply not only to patents taken out in this country, but to foreign patents also. Nothing could be worse for this country than that foreign patents should be protected in this country, while the industry is carried on abroad. That is the worst form of Protection; and appears exceedingly hard as regards various industries in this country. The case of aniline dyes has been mentioned more than once. I do not desire to say a word against the great firm which carries on that industry; but I maintain that there ought to be a chance of fair competition in this country; and that the industry ought not to be protected by a paper validity. It appears to me, therefore, that the second section of the Bill is a most useful and valuable section. It has been suggested that the foreign idea of compulsory working should be adopted. That is one way of dealing with the problem; and I thought for a long time that it would be a satisfactory way; but there are various objections to it and I think the solution proposed in the Bill is the best possible one in the circumstances. We have a provision by which if a patent is not being properly worked, and if the reasonable requirements of the public are not being served, a compulsory licence may be granted by a properly constituted court. The new sub-section which provides that a licence may be granted if an existing industry is injuriously affected, or the establishment of a now industry is prevented, or if the demand for the patented article is not properly met, is a most important provision. I hope that in future the patent law of this country will serve its proper purpose of encouraging inventors and will not be used for the improper purpose of preventing new industries being established in this country, and of protecting foreigners, who supply this country from abroad with articles, merely because they have paper patents standing in their names.

(5.0.) SIR WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)

In my opinion the drawback to inventions in this country has been our system of patent law. There is no encouragement given under that system to inventors. When I was in the habit of taking out patents I had to pay very heavily for them, and they only had a short time to run. I had to contend also with those who claimed priority of invention, and my inventions were liable to be declared invalid. When I look at the American system of patent law, I am face to face with the fact that all workmen, however humble, can lay their patents or their models, as they sometimes do, before the patent officer, and they are not patented unless that officer decides that they are valid inventions. In this country they take your money and will not tell you whether it is a new invention or not, and the consequence is that many of our inventors are stultified in all their operations. The principle on which the patent law should be based should be the lowest figure possible to be charged to the inventor, and the longest time possible given to him. Then there should be what I might call a Patent Search Committee, who should consider all the inventions laid before them before they took the inventor's money. The present system gives no encouragement to inventive working men; the best labour-saving machinery has been invented by working men, but they have never derived any benefit from it. Those who have profited have boon those who have taken the invention up. To my mind this Bill is not a good Bill; it is too wordy and not practical; there should be a simple statement of the charge and the time, and the inventor should be left free to settle his other business arrangements.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, &c."— (Mr. Gerald Balfour)

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

expressed the opinion that the Standing Committee on Law was much more fitted to deal with the intricate questions raised by such a Bill as this. He therefore moved that the word "Law" should be substituted for "Trade." He begged to move.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'Trade' and insert the word 'Law.'"(Mr. Daliziel.)

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


hoped the Amendment would not be carried, but that the Bill would be dealt with by the Trade Committee, upon which commercial opinion found more expression. The feeling of the manufacturers of this country was that the Committee to which this Bill was carried should not have too many lawyers, and too few commercial men. Therefore he hoped it would go to the Standing Committee on Trade.

MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)

thought legal training should shape the Bill, and after experience of proceedings on the Meat Marking Bill he had little reliance on the commercial spirit of the Trade Committee.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

thought dis- tinctly the Bill was work for the Law Committee, for the reason that to anybody who had not had a legal training the Bill was almost un-understandable.


thought the point was not worth contesting, though he favoured the Government proposal. Members competent to deal with all the points of the Bill would be found on either Committee, or could be added.


said he should have supposed the Bill of sufficient importance to be dealt with by a Committee of the Whole House, hut as between the two Standing Committees the Trade Committee was best suited for the discussion.

(5.13.) Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 198; Noes, 58. (Division List No. 267.)

Achand Hood, Capt. SirAlex. F. Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow
Allan, Sir William (Gateshead Faber, George Denison (York) Lawson, John Grant
Allhusen, AugustnsH'nryEden Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Leese, SirJosepF.(Accrington
Arrol, Sir William Fergusson, Rt Hn. SirJ(Manc'r Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Leng, Sir John
Brain, Colonel James Robert Fisher, William Hayes Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.
Baird, John Geo. Alexander FitzGerald, SirRobertPenrose- Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Balcarres, Lord Flavin, Michael Joseph Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Bristol, S)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J.(Manch'r Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Lonsdale, John Brownlee
Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey) Flower, Ernest Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)
Balfour, Rt. HnGeraldW(Leeds Flynn, James Christopher Loyd, Archie Kirkman
Banbury, Frederick George Foster, Philip S(Warwick, S. W Lucas, ReginaldJ(Portsmouth)
Bartley, George C. T. Furness, Sir Christopher Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred
Beach, Rt HnSirMichael Hicks Galloway, William Johnson Macdona, John Cumming
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Garfit, William MacVeagh Jeremiah
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Gladstone, Rt. Hn. HerbertJno. M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)
Beresford, Lord Chas. William Godson, SirAugustusFrederick M'Govern, T.
Bhownaggre Sir M. M. Gordon, Hn. J. E(Elgin & Nairn) M'Iver, SirLewis(Edinburgh W
Bignold, Arthur Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.) M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire
Blundell, Colonel Henry Gordon, MajEvans-(T'rH'mlets Majendie, James A. H.
Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex Goschen, Hon. George Joachim Manners, Lord Cecil
Brigg, John Gretton, John Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe
Brookfield, Colonel Montagu Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill Martin, Richard Biddulph
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Gunter, Sir Robert Milner, Rt. Hon. Sir Fred'k G.
Bull William James Guthrie, Walter Murray Molesworth, Sir Lewis
Butcher, John George Hain, Edward More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F. Morrell, George Herbert
Cavendish V. C. W(Derbyshire Hanbury, Rt, Hon. Robt. Wm. Morton, ArthurH. A.(Deptford
Cecil Evelyn (Aston Manor) Harris, Frederick Leverton Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.
Cecil Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Haslett, Sir James Horner Murray, RtHnAGraham(Bute
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J.(Birm. Hay, Hon. Claude George Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Chamberlain, J. Austen(Worc'r Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Chapman Edward Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D. Nicol, Donald Ninian
Charrington Spencer Helder, Augustus Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)
Cohen Benjamin Louis Henderson, Sir Alexander O'Malley, William
Colomb, SirJohnCharlesReady Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Orr-Ewing Charles Lindsay
Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Holland, Sir William Henry Palmer, George Wm.(Reading
Corbett A. Cameron (Glasgow) Houldsworth Sir Wm. Henry Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Cox Irwin Edw. Bainbridge Hoult, Joseph Posse, Alfred E. (Cleveland
Cremer, William Randall Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham) Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley
Cripps Charles Alfred Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil Pemberton, John S. G.
Cubitt Hon Henry Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.) Percy, Earl
Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred. Pierpoint, Robert
Davies, SirHoratio D(Chatham Johnston, William (Belfast) Pilkington, Lieut.-Col. Richard
Dickson, Charles Scott Johstone, Heywood (Sussex) Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Digby John K D. Wingfield- Johes, David Brynm'r(Swansea Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Dixon-Hartland, SirFr'dDixon Jones, William (Carnarvonsh. Purvis, Robert
Douglas, Rt, Hon. A. Akers- Joyce, Michael Pym, C. Guy
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Kearley, Hudson E. Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Knowles, Lees Rattigan, Sir William Henry
Elibank, Master of Laurie, Lieut.-General Rea, Russell
Reid, Sir R. Threshie(Dumfries Stanley, Lord (Lancs.) Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Ridley, S. Forde(Bethnal Green Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jno. M. Wilson, J. W.(Worcester, N.
Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson Stone, Sir Benjamin Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)
Robertson, Herbert (Hackney) Strachey, Sir Edward Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Robinson, Brooke Stroyan, John Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson
Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester) Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-
Round, Rt. Hn. James Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G.(Oxf. Univ. Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Royds, Clement Molyneux Thomas, David Alf. (Merthyr) Wylie, Alexander
Russell, T. W. Thornton, Percy M. Wyndham, Rt. Hn. George
Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford- Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander Tuke, Sir John Batty Yoxall, James Henry
Seton-Karr, Henry Valentia, Viscount
Sinclair, Louis Romford Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H. (Sheff.
Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks) Weir, James Galloway TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Spear, John Ward Whitley, J. H. (Halifax) Sir William Walrond and
Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.) Mr. Anstruther.
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Hayden, John Patrick O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)
Atherley-Jones, L. Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H. O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W.)
Austin, Sir John Horniman, Frederick John O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Barlow, John Emmott Lambert, George O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.)
Black, Alexander William Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W. O'Shee, James John
Boland, John Layland-Barratt, Francis Reddy, M.
Burke, E. Haviland- Leamy, Edmund Redmond, William (Clare)
Caldwell, James Lloyd-George, David Richards, Henry Charles
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Lundon, W. Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Channing, Francis Allston MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A. Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Delany, William MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R(Northants
Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh. M'Kean, John Sullivan, Donal
Donelan, Captain A. M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Tully, Jasper
Doogan, P. C. Mooney, John J. Wallace, Robert
Dunn, Sir William Murphy, John Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Edwards, Frank Nannetti, Joseph P. Woodhouse, SirJ. T(Huddersf'd
Evans, Samuel T. Norton, Capt. Cecil William
Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Nussey, Thomas Willans
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Griffiths, Ellis J. O'Brien, Kendal (Tipp'ary, Mid Mr. Dalziel and Mr.
Haldane, Rt. Hn. Richard B. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) O'Mara.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, etc.