HL Deb 07 March 1928 vol 70 cc403-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill, as its Preamble suggests, is to make such amendments of the Patents and Designs Acts, 1907 and 1919, as are necessary to enable effect to be given to a Convention for the protection of industrial property. Industrial property includes patents, utility models, industrial designs and models, trade marks, trade names, and other indications of sources or appellations of origin. Before the Convention in its present amended form can be ratified, it is necessary to bring the law of this country into accord with the terms of the amended Convention and this Bill is brought forward to amend the Patents and Designs Acts, 1907 and 1919, to carry out this. The Bill does not involve any additional expense, and is only confined to small amendments to enable the obligations which will be incurred on a ratification of the amended Convention to be carried out in Great Britain. There are only a few clauses and the matters dealt with are of a minor kind. Clause 1 refers to the question of priority of patents. The second makes it clear that the term of three years may elapse from the date of the grant before the applicant is bound to work the patent, or become subject to penalties. Clause 3 provides that inventions used on vessels or aircraft and land vehicles which temporarily or accidentally come into other countries belonging to the Union, shall not be regarded as infringements of the rights of the patentee. I do not think there is anything very startling or revolutionary in this Bill, and I beg to move that it be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Viscount Peel.)


My Lords, being interested in these matters I have studied this Bill with care. I think it is an admirable Bill, in itself, and it is very necessary, I think, having regard to the Convention. But there is one matter to which I should like to call attention. I have had considerable professional experience of patents and designs, but it took me a very long time to understand this Rill even with a library at hand. This is a very bad illustration of legislation by reference. I am sure the noble Viscount will agree with that.


It is not quite so bad as one or two Bills last year.


All the same it is very bad. I want to ask the noble Viscount, when we have clauses and subsections providing that sections and subsections of some previous Act shall be altered and read in a different sense, whether he could not have the actual amended section or subsection put in the Bill. It is a very easy thing as a matter of drafting and you would then have an intelligible document. I cannot go further now than to ask whether he will consider that. I think we have arrived at the time when what I call the scandal of drafting by reference ought, if possible, to be put an end to. It could be avoided if, instead of putting in a reference to old Acts, you put in the particular Amendment as a whole so that it could be understood from the actual Bill itself. It is not difficult, though it may cause a little more trouble to the draftsman. As the noble Viscount said, this is not the worst instance, but it is a very difficult instance and it took me a long time to understand the Bill. I would ask him to look into the matter with the draftsman and see if it is possible in this case to stop drafting by reference so that we may have a document, which is intelligible to any ordinary person.


Of course I will look into it at the request of the noble Lord, but may I remind him of my experience last year. One of the Bills of which I had charge was the Unemployment Bill and in order to assist your Lordships I made myself responsible for a certain White Paper which contained all the clauses with the new bits put in. I was rather discouraged, I am bound to say, at that time because I received rather severe castigation from Earl Buxton. I do not know whether it was for having done it or for not having done it sooner, but I was a little abashed by the way it was received. Of course I will look into the matter, but, as the noble Lord knows extremely well, while it would be a very easy thing with regard to Bills in this House, because your Lordships always practise a certain abstinence in the number of Amendments you bring forward, that is not the case in another place. The noble Lord knows how many Bills would fail to pass if the whole of the sections in which Amendments were introduced were set out. I will certainly discuss the matter, if he presses it, with the draftsman, but I think he knows the difficulties which stand in the way much better than I do.


I hope the noble Viscount will not weary of well-doing.


If you will encourage me I will not.


It may be difficult, but it can be done. This is not a big Bill and if it could be done in a case of this kind it might serve as a precedent in other cases.


My Lords, may I say to the noble Viscount that the only animadversion made last year was that the very excellent document which he produced, and which I think everyone appreciated, arrived on the scene so late. I think that was the only complaint. It was not his fault, no doubt, but I think that was the only complaint. For the document itself everyone was very grateful.


But no one said he was grateful.


My Lords, this is a subject which comes frequently before me and, as I am anxious to keep in harmony with your Lordships, I should like to enforce what the noble Lord has said as to the undesirability of encouraging legislation by reference. I notice that the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill has gone some way to meet us, but I have some difficulty in understanding how Clause 5 (3) is to work. It appears that if your Lordships pass the Bill in its present form and it receives the Royal Assent the principal Act will be printed, regard being had to the words added or omitted by this Bill, by the Stationery Office. I feel rather uneasy about a clause of that kind, and I should like to ask the noble Viscount if he will discuss that also with the drafts man. It seems to me that it is going to be rather difficult if an Act of Parliament is passed in one form and is then printed in another form, not on Parliamentary authority, but on the authority merely of the Stationery Office.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past five o'clock.