HC Deb 12 June 1934 vol 290 cc1534-6

3.16 p.m.


I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to patents and designs by providing for the protection of employé inventors. The object of this short Bill is to fill a gap in the present patent law as it affects the rights of inventors who are employés, and to provide such employé inventors with an added protection under the law. I think it will be agreed that at present there is a widespread feeling that employés like draughtsmen and technicians of various kinds who make considerable contributions to industrial progress by way of their inventions often fail to secure adequate remuneration for their inventions. The difficulty arises from the complicated procedure which forms the only method whereby their grievances can be redressed. I think it is already recognised that the patent of an employé must be taken out in his name as the true and first inventor, and it is recognised by the authorities on patent law that, in the absence of a special contract the invention of a servant, even though made in the employer's time, with the use of the employer's material, and at the expense of the employer, does not become the property of the employer so as to justify him in opposing the grant of a patent for the invention to the servant who is the proper patentee. The aim of the present Bill is to implement that well understood principle and to provide machinery for the purpose.

The Bill seeks to secure for the employé inventor the proper remuneration that should be his due, and, secondly, to enable the employé to deal with and exploit the invention where the employer purposely or negligently refrains from making the best use of the patent. I have had the benefit of the advice of a number of professional men who are engineering and shipbuilding draughtsmen, and of the National Federation of Professional Workers, many of whose members in affiliated organisations are professional workers of this kind and have had very unhappy experiences in dealing with their patents.

We have given a considerable amount of thought to the best manner in which this position can be simply and easily remedied, and with this aim in view, and from a study of the patent law, it would appear that the new provision that was introduced into the Patents and Designs Act, 1919, provided a very useful basis for Amendment. In that Act it is provided, in the special case of patents in connection with the preparation of foodstuffs and medicines, that the Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks may grant to any person applying a licence for the use of the patent and may settle the terms upon which such licence shall be granted and fix the amount of royalty or other consideration payable. This Bill is introduced with the intention of extending that machinery to be used in the case of applications by employé inventors. It provides that any employé whose name appears upon a patent as the first true inventor or patentee either singly or jointly with his employer may apply at any time after the sealing of the grant to the Comptroller to settle the terms, securing to the employé an adequate interest in or remuneration for the invention, and to fix the amount of royalty or other consideration payable to the employé; and, where at any time it appears that the employer abuses the monopoly rights in the patent, for leave to deal with the patent either by way of licence or disposal in such manner as the Comptroller may deem to be appropriate and expedient. I believe the Bill will remove what is an admitted grievance and injustice.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. John Wilmot, Mr. Charles Brown, Mr. Cocks, Mr. Rhys Davies, Mr. Neil Maclean, and Mr. West.