HL Deb 14 March 1876 vol 227 cc1944-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Chancellor.)


said, that the Petition he had just presented raised two points in connection with this measure. The poorer class of inventors considered that the fees which they had to pay were too high; and he must say that it seemed reasonable that the fees should be reduced, so that every facility should be given to the application of those who were desirous of obtaining patents. The other objection to the existing system was that the specifications of patents were not sufficiently circulated. He understood that free libraries and other institutions had found considerable difficulty in getting copies of the specifications. As regarded the question of patents he believed that the whole matter lay between two issues—either that there should be no patents at all, or else that every facility should be given to the poorer class of inventors for obtaining them. He hoped that the noble and learned Lord would give some attention to the matter.


said, he was obliged to the noble Earl for drawing his attention to the matter: he was, however, at a loss to understand the foundation of the complaint that there was any difficulty in obtaining copies of specifications—an objection of which he had never heard before. He had been led to believe that if there was any error it was the other way. He had understood that there was no Department that had given so great facilities to the public as the Commissioners for Patents in reference to obtaining information in reference to specifications. Not only was there a central Library of Specifications where they were open for inspection without fee, but they had been printed from the earliest time, and could be obtained for a very small sum of money. In addition, copies were sent to various depôts throughout the country, where they could be purchased at a very low price. As to the question of fees imposed for obtaining patents, that was in one sense more for the House of Commons than for their Lordships. The Royal Commission examined the question, and they were unanimously of opinion that the fees should not be reduced; and a Committee of the House of Commons reported, by a majority of 8 to 3, against reduction. Therefore, he had not proposed any reduction in his present Bill. It should be borne in mind that the grant of a patent was the grant of a monopoly which might very seriously interfere with the trade of the country; and that it should not therefore be granted lightly. One of the best checks against the granting of patents for matters that might be frivolous or useless was the establishment of sufficient fees. The payment of fees was at present arranged in a very sensible manner; for the stamp payable on first obtaining the patent was small, and the larger fees were payable only on the expiration of the third and seventh years; so that the inventor would have time to consider whether it would be worth his while to pay the larger fee or not. He did not think that the fees at present charged upon inventions could be reduced without serious danger to the interests of trade.


was understood to say that he thought the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had done well in omitting from the present Bill the provision for the appointment of Experts contained in the Bill of last year. As to the omission of the clause providing for two classes of patents— one for seven and the other for 14 years—he doubted whether it was so advisable. He thought that with respect to that proposition it might have been better for the noble and learned Lord to have acted on first impulses.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next.