HC Deb 20 February 1957 vol 565 cc525-6

8.15 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. F. J. Erroll)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 7, to leave out subsection (2).

The effect of the Amendment is to leave Section 13 of the Patents Act, 1949, unamended. Although, therefore, by virtue of the other provisions of the Bill an applicant for a patent will have a longer period than is allowed by the Act of 1949 for putting his patent specification in order for acceptance, he will not be able to request the postponement of acceptance for a longer period than the maximum of fifteen months.

This Amendment was debated in another place and a substantially similar, if not the same, Amendment was discussed earlier, in Standing Committee. The Amendments were then resisted on two grounds. First, it did not seem likely that it would do very much in practice to achieve the result desired, because it was still possible for a person who positively desired to delay acceptance of his patent specification to achieve delay by the simple process of delaying the completion of the application and delaying the putting of it in order.

The second reason for resisting the Amendments was that since 1939 an applicant has been allowed to make such a request for postponement of acceptance and, therefore, of publication until the end of the statutory maximum period, and it was felt that Parliament ought not to make what would, in fact, be a change in the law on this point without an inquiry among the interested parties.

In Committee I gave an undertaking that I should look into the points raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that, in view of the wide representations which we have re- ceived on the matter, it would meet the wishes of all parties if we were to change the law and to leave out subsection (2).

I should make it plain, nevertheless, that we feel that the Amendment will not have very much practical effect in respect of those who are deliberately determined to resist the completion of their specification. We offer the Amendment to the House in the hope that it will do something to achieve the desired objective.

Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)

Speaking for myself, I am most grateful to the Minister for the step which he has taken. When the Bill was discussed in Committee considerable anxiety was expressed from both sides about the proposal which the Government had then embodied in the Bill. As the Minister has said, he has deferred in substance to the wishes expressed from both sides of the Committee.

I am not quite as pessimistic as he is. He feels that the Amendment will make little change. Those who spoke in favour of it from both sides of the Commitee feel, for the reasons which we evinced in the discussion, that this change will prevent what otherwise might have been a substantial abuse and a substantial prolongation of proceedings. I am glad that the Minister has made the Amendment. I am grateful to him and I should like to thank him for the change which he has introduced.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

May I add my thanks to the Minister and those of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald), who is unable to be here, but who has asked me to express his thanks to the Minister for meeting the wishes of the Committee. I think that they were the wishes of the entire Committee upstairs.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey was the moving spirit on that occasion, and he is, therefore, particularly pleased by the Minister's action. I think he shares the view of the right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) that this is a substantial advantage, and that the whole cause which we all have at heart will be much advantaged by it.

Amendment agreed to.