HC Deb 28 July 1919 vol 118 cc1868-72

Order for Second Heading read.


1 beg to move, That the Bill be now read a second time. I need not detain the House very long in-explaining the objects of this Bill. This measure naturally divides itself into three parts. The first part of the Bill proposes that we should have a class of trade marks rather different from that with which we have been familiar, but the intention is to have a list or a register of trade marks which have common law existence and can be protected in the form of actions known as a "passing off action." For that purpose we propose to have part B of the register, and it will be much easier for any individual who wishes to register such a mark to get it under that part. We suggest in Clause 2 that Where any mark has for not less than two years been bonâ fide used in the United Kingdom upon or in connection with any goods (whether for sale in the United Kingdom or exportation abroad)— the person claiming to be the proprietor of the mark may apply to the registrar to have it entered in Part B of the register. The second part is of very considerable practical importance. There is a great abuse at the present time in connection with the use of "marks." We have got, for example, the case of drugs. A very good example of this abuse is the use of the word "Aspirin." It is to deal with difficulties arising from the use of such names, which are absolutely blocking names upon other manufactures of the same chemical substance, that the Bill is brought before this House. It is not an ambitious measure, but a very modest one, but it will, I firmly believe, make a great improvement in our present powers and legislation governing the use and protection of trade marks.


This Bill is of a very technical character, and it is the result of long negotiations with those concerned. The proposal to set up two classes of trade marks is a very questionable one. Our trade marks law is the most strict in the whole civilised world, and in some respects it would be an advantage to many traders in this country were they able to register in this country, and more especially for their trade abroad. I do not profess to be an expert authority on these matters, but to me, as a layman who has had some experience of trade marks, some of these proposals seem very questionable. This is a matter which wants the most careful investigation, but it seems to me that it is hardly a matter that is suitable for any prolonged debate on the floor of the House, and I do not intend to initiate one. It is a matter which can be properly investigated by the Committee. Such other criticisms as may be directed against the Bill are purely Committee points. We all agree that there is an abuse of the Trade Marks law, and whether this remedy is safe or whether the Bill will accomplish that which it is intended to do and prevent abuses particularly connected with certain patent chemical combinations without injuring other persons is a matter which the Committee may very properly investigate. We all agree that there are abuses which press hardly upon some persons, and those of us who have any knowledge of these matters would be very glad to see the abuses removed. We are therefore prepared to give such support in our power to the right hon. Gentleman who has brought forward this Bill. On the other hand, it must always be remembered that trade mark owners require some consideration. I hope that the Bill will receive careful examination by the Committee.


I doubt very much if the House, in giving a Second Reading to this Bill, understands very much about it. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which excelled in brevity, did not dismiss one or two doubts and difficulties in my own mind with regard to the Bill. I quite agree that the questions which arise can best be dealt with in Committee, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why it is necessary to introduce the first part of the Bill at all. What is the object of making two classes of trade marks? It appears to me that anyone who has not taken the trouble to register a trade mark is having offered to him an opportunity of getting a certain advantage which he might have had if he had taken the trouble of applying for registration under the existing Act. That is a point about which I am not clear from the wording of the measure, and the right hon. Gentleman himself did not seem to be very clear that there was very much necessity for the first part of the Bill, if I may judge by inference, because he attached a good deal of importance to the second part as compared with the first part. I would like to know whether it is going to put certain people who have been rather careless, and who perhaps have been getting an advantage from their carelessness, into a position, perhaps not quite as good as those in Class A, but rather better than they would otherwise occupy. Is it not possible, while endeavouring to remedy something which is wrong in one direction, that some injustice may be done by some of the provisions in the second part of the Bill to firms who by enterprise, by continuous work, or by large sums of money spent in advertising have acquired a goodwill in a name which has become a household word? I quite agree that this is not an occasion; for long speeches or for going into details, but I wish to advance those general criticisms so that the points I have mentioned may be safeguarded in the Committee Stage.


I understand that this Bill divides the registration of trade marks into two, and the question is whether in Part B of the register it will be open to insert trade marks of a certain character. There are some trade marks well known to my right hon. Friend the Solicitor-General which formerly have been refused by the Registrar and by the Court, although they have actually become associated in the public mind with some particular article. They have been rejected by the Courts, because ab initio the words were not adapted to distinguishing the article. During a course of years the words have become so intimately associated in the public mind with the article that primâ facie there appears to be considerable hardship in making the distinguishing names that the proprietors have given to such articles open to their competitors and the whole world. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will be able to give us any guidance on that point. So long as the words are not misleading and have a real adaptation by usage they should be capable of being inserted in Part B.


I understand that the purpose of Class B is to deal with the very cases to which my hon. Friend has referred. There are a number of cases in which there are marks which are quite good property and are in common use but which do not fulfil the precise requirements to enable them to be registered under the present Trade Marks Act. The purpose of Part B is to enable those marks to be registered. When we come, in Committee, to examine the various alterations and Amendments to be made to the present Trade Marks Act, I think the hon. Gentleman will find that is the object with which Part B has been introduced. A number of marks will then be able to find their way on to the register which are quite good property, and which really ought to be there.


In what way would a possessor of a mark in Class B be inferior to one possessing a mark in Class A? What are the differences in privileges between Classes A and B?


I do not think there will be any difference. Class B is a class which does not exist at present, and it will be by way of supplement rather than by way of distinction.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee