HC Deb 22 July 1977 vol 935 cc2112-6

Amendments made: No. 81, in page 123, line 3, at end insert—

No. 84, in page 123, line 9, at end insert' Section 22(4) and (5)'.

No. 85, in page 123, line 10, leave out from beginning to end of line 11 and insert— In section 23(1), the words from "(not exceeding "to" ten years)". In section 24, in subsection (1), the words "(not exceeding ten years)" and in subsection (7) the words from "but" to the end.

No. 88, in page 123, leave out lines 26 to 28.

No. 89, in page 123, leave out lines 41 to 44.

No. 90, in page 123, leave out lines 45 to 49.

No. 91, in page 123, leave out lines 52 No. to 55.

"9 & 10 Eliz. 2. The Patents and Designs (Renewals, Extensions and Fees) Act 1961. In section 1(1), the words from "sub—section (5) "to" "and in". Section 2."

No. 93, in page 124, line 4, column 3, leave out from 'Schedule 1' to end of line 10 and insert 'the entry relating to section 84 of the Patents Act 1949 '.

No. 94, in page 124, leave out lines 14 to 16.

No. 95, in page 124, leave out lines 39 to 45.—[Mr. Clinton Davis.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

1.54 p.m.

Mr. Nott

Before making my concluding remarks on the Bill, perhaps I may comment on the personal statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Cordle). I know that many of us will be very sorry to see him leave the House. He will do so in the knowledge that he has served the House and his constituents ably and conscientiously over many years.

Having met certain criticisms from a Committee of the House, I am sure that my hon. Friend has behaved honourably in the course of action that he has taken. We shall be sorry to see him leave.

I come now to the Bill. We are glad that the procedures have now been completed in this House. Of course, that is subject to their Lordships in another place not seeking to make further amendments leading to the Bill coming back once more. However, subject to that, we have reached the end of this legislation in the Commons, and we shall all be pleased to see it on the statute book. It is an important item of legislation. The country and, indeed, people overseas have been waiting for this reform for many years.

The Bill has been highly technical. With so many technical, not to say legal, Bills going through the House at the same time, we have been rather stretched in dealing with it. Indeed, with the Criminal Law Bill, the Finance Bill, the Unfair Contract Terms Bill and the Protection from Eviction Bill all lying on the Table in front of me, all of which require a certain professional, if not legal, expertise, it has been unfortunate in one way that we should have been deprived of the services

No. 92, in page 124, leave out line 2 and insert—

of our lawyers in assisting us with this measure. I know that we would have benefited from having some of our legal experts with us to deal with this Bill in the Commons. But possibly we have got through the procedures rather faster than would otherwise have been the case. Perhaps as laymen we have done it almost as competently as the lawyers might have done it with our advice and help. I should point out that I am a qualified lawyer.

The Bill is important. It will bring considerable satisfaction that, after many years, we are bringing our law into line with European practice. I hope that the active and important profession of patent agents will be able to conduct a widening and more extensive business, particularly overseas, which will bring benefits to this country.

I should like once more to say how much assistance the House has had from their Lordships in another place. The Bill started in the other place and was dealt with extremely competently by their Lordships. Indeed, we have had an easy task due entirely to the conscientious, able and competent way in which their Lordships considered the matter in depth. My noble Friends Lord Belstead and Lord Lyle, in particular, worked extremely hard in the Lords. I know that all hon. Members on both sides of the House are grateful to them.

The Patent Office team has worked extremely hard. It would not be appropriate for me to mention any of its members by name. We realise that this has been a difficult period for them. As far as we can see, they have performed extremely competently and helpfully. I thank them.

The only point that I should like to make to the Under-Secretary of State, who has conducted the business in the House with good humour, is that all of us—the outside profession—heve been advised and asked to keep amendments down in number. In retrospect, I think that the hon. Gentleman must agree that that was an odd request for him to make because, throughout the progress on the Bill, the number of Government amendments have been 100 times those moved by us. On Report hon. Members have put down five amendments, whereas the Government have put down nearly 100. I do not say that in any sense of criticism. Clearly this is a complicated and technical piece of legislation and it was important that the Government should get it right. To that extent, we understand why there have been so many amendments.

One fairly important matter remains outstanding—the question of regional filing offices. I am glad that the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents will be joining in a study of this question. That was quite an important point and I am glad that we had the opportunity of debating it in Committee.

We on the Opposition Benches, who did not have the advice of the experts available to the Minister, were extremely fortunate in having the help of one or two members of the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents, who have worked extremely hard for us. I should like to say publicly, if it is not out of order, that we are grateful, and to mention two people in particular—Mr. Ellis and Mr. Flower, who is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the Institute of Patent Agents.

Throughout the progress of the Bill the patent agents have stressed the general good rather than the good of their own particular profession. On only one occasion—and that was with the group of amendments requesting that patent agents should be allowed to call themselves European patent attorneys—did they put forward anything that could in any way have benefited their own pro- fession. I want to say publicly how much we all owe to their help and in particular, how much we owe to the two individuals whom I have mentioned. It is good to feel that we can have this close liaison with experts outside the House when such important and technical legislation passes through Parliament.

2.2 p.m.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I shall not detain the House for more than one and a half minutes, since my Chief Whip is now sitting behind me and this is a dangerous position for a Minister.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) for his remarks on the Patent Office and those in industry who have been extremely helpful. I am relieved as well as satisfied that we have almost completed this complex piece of legislation. This is an important Bill. It increases the rights of the employee inventor, and that is extremely important. Above all, it has played a part in creating a new international system for the granting of patents, of which the European patents organisation is the most prominent part. A sufficient number of countries have now ratified the European Patents Convention for it to be brought into force on 7th October, and that is important progress.

I thank my hon. Friends for the contributions that they have made, and I also thank those who have consulted me about this legislation. In practice, it will be seen to be a radical piece of legislation in this important, complex and technical field.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.