HC Deb 14 November 1951 vol 493 cc1125-6

10.38 p.m.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

I beg to move, That an humble Address he presented to His Majesty under subsection (3) of section forty-nine of the Patents Act, 1949, praying that the Patents (Extension of Period of Emergency) Order, 1951, be made in the form of the draft laid before this House on 6th November.

Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)

I had been hoping that the House might have from the Minister an explanation of this Motion. Will he say in how many cases it has been used in the past, and what is the justification for it?

Mr. Sandys

I am glad to give a brief explanation of the necessity for these powers. In the first place, these powers would have been included in the Emergency Laws Motion, which has been discussed by the House, but for the fact that, in 1949, the Patent Law was consolidated into the Patents Act. That Act gives Government Departments certain permanent rights to use patented inventions for the service of the Crown. In addition, Section 49 of that Act confers certain powers in the event of emergency.

The Act defines the period of emergency as being one year from the passage of that Act, that is, it carried on from 1949 to 1950. Last year it was extended by one year, and we are now asking the House to extend it a further year. This extension is the purpose of the Motion. The powers are fairly widely drawn, as will be seen from Section 49, and the reason we need them is to expedite the export trade, and in particular for the production of aircraft, aircraft components and aircraft instruments. The advantage of these powers for the export trade is that they enable serious delays in production to be avoided. If these powers did not exist it would be necessary for manufacturers, before they started production, to ascertain where patent rights lay, and often to enter into lengthy negotiations.

We recognise, of course, that these powers do override private rights, but the Patents Act, on the other hand, provides three definite and effective safeguards. First, the Government Department which avails itself of the rights is obliged to seek out the owners of the rights. Secondly, the Department is obliged to enter into negotiations with the owners of the rights and agree satisfactory terms for the pay- ment of compensation. The third safeguard is that, in the event of disagreement, the matter can be taken to the High Court.

The hon. Gentleman has asked me what has happened in the past. I cannot give the number of cases, but what I can tell him is that, in practice, it has always been to agree on satisfactory terms without taking, the matter to arbitration, or the High Court. In view of the importance of expediting the export trade and the full and effective safeguards in the Act, I hope the House will now approve the Motion.

Question put, and agreed to.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.

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