§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that its object was to revive a patent which had lapsed owing to the fees for renewal not having been paid within the statutory period of three months. This was the first case that had occurred under the Patent Act of 1883. The default was purely an accident on the part of the patentee, who had no wish whatever to evade the law; it arose entirely from his illness, his inability to transact business, and his not having given proper instructions to his clerk to pay within the time prescribed. The Comptroller had stated that the only means of remedying the omission was for the patentee to resort to a private Act of Parliament. He (the Earl De La Warr) hoped the Bill would not be opposed.
Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Earl De la Warr.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
said, that the case was one of considerable hardship. £23,000 had been invested in the purchase of plant for the purposes of the patent. This was the first Bill asking for the revival of a lapsed patent since the passing of the Act, which required that the fees for renewal should be paid within three months. He hoped, if their Lordships should read the Bill a second time, they would give an intimation that this was not to be a precedent, and that such Bills would not be received in a future Session by the House.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
said, that when the Act of 1883 was passed, it was hoped and expected that the enlarged time given for the payment of fees to keep the patent alive would in all cases be sufficient to prevent inconvenience and hardship. Those engaged in preparing the Act were of opinion that three months would be sufficient. The provisions, however, of the Statute could not take away from the Legislature the power of passing special legislation. This was the first case of the kind which had come before their Lordships since the passing of the Act of 1883; but he thought it ought to be understood that Parliament would not intervene in the case of persons who had failed to make payment at the proper time. Undoubtedly, the present case seemed to be one in which hardship would be inflicted if the patent were allowed to lapse, as large sums had been paid by the patentee, for which, if the patent lapsed, he would get no return. He would not oppose the Bill; but he agreed with the noble Earl (the Earl of Onslow) that it should be known that Parliament would not readily relieve patentees in this manner.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HALSBURY)
said, that without offering any opposition to the Bill, he thought it right to say that there was something in the nature of an understanding that since the time had been enlarged, Bills of this kind which, before had been frequent, should not be entertained for the future. There were two sides to the question of reviving patents. After the patent had expired, other persons had a right to invest their money in what might be regarded as the property of the public. It was only fair that the rights of persons who had invested capital on the faith that the patent had become public property should be regarded. 559 He desired to say that by way of additional warning.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Duke of BUCKINGHAM and CHANDOS)
said, he was glad that this discussion had arisen on the Bill, as it would be of great use in guiding legislation. This was not the only Bill of the kind under the Act of 1883 which was likely to be brought before Parliament. There were, he believed, three persons likely to be applicants for the same indulgence if this Bill were read a second time. One of the parties had been already before him. There was a provision in the Act of 1883 which ought not to be overlooked in considering this question; and that was, that the Patent Office of the Board of Trade, under the Act of 1883, published a journal in which patents that had become void were duly published, so that intimation was given to the public that certain patents had become void. They were now at the end of February, and in September notice was given to the public that Potter's patent had become void.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly.