HL Deb 22 February 1867 vol 185 cc807-8

asked the Under Secretary of State for War, Whether any Departmental Officers, having had the benefit of the experience of the various trials of Small Arms made at the expense of the Government, had taken out patents for the improvement of Small Arms?


said, he was not aware that any such patents had recently been taken out. One officer, indeed, in the Enfield factory, had been about to do so, but, being well advised, had abandoned his claim. Colonel Boxer, it was true, had taken out a patent for a cartridge which had been found to be of value in connection with the Snider rifle; but the War Department had always discouraged the practice of officers taking out patents. Though, however, the practice had been discouraged, there was no absolute prohibition on the subject before General Peel came into office. The noble Lord who preceded him in office (the Marquess of Hartington) had expressed his opinion that these proceedings were objectionable, and his judgment was to deal with the matter by legislative enactment in connection with the revision of the patent laws. The subject was some time under consideration, when a difficulty arose, because while the law advisers of the War Department were in favour of proceeding by legislation, the Law Officers of the Crown were of a different opinion, and referred the question back as one that should be entirely regulated by the Department. The consequence was that no immediate action was taken. Another element of difficulty was that, whereas the War Department objected to patents under such circumstances, the Board of Admiralty did not, and on being referred to declined to concur with the Secretary of War in issuing a general prohibition. The matter had attracted the attention of General Peel, who was understood to be averse to the practice, and would before long consider whether it was advisable to take any steps by legislation either on the part of the Department alone, or in connection with the other Departments so that in future departmental officers should no longer be permitted to take out patents in relation to improvements which came under their official notice.