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Designs Act Extension Bill

Volume 115: debated on Thursday 3 April 1851

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Order for Committee read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

said, he objected to the House making a temporary law of this kind for the benefit of any class of individuals, however influential that class might be. He had heard no reason given why this Bill should be introduced: in fact he did not think that a Bill of the nature was at all required. He thought, too, when he referred to the evidence which had been taken before the Lords' Committee, he should be able to show the House that it was wholly unnecessary. The effect of the Bill would be to give to the foreigner who was the proprietor of a design an advantage which he had not at present, and deprive English inventors of the rights which they now enjoyed. He was perfectly aware that the Report of the Lords' Committee referred to a Bill very different from that which was introduced into the House of Lords; but he considered that the evidence contained nevertheless, in that Report materially affected the provisions of the Bill. Another objection which he entertained to the measure was, that it would give an advantage to the foreign over the home producer. On looking over the evidence, he found that one witness was asked how he thought the Bill would operate with respect to English inventors abroad, and foreign inventors in this country? The answer he gave was, that the foreign inventor would first take out a patent abroad, and then come and obtain one in this country, and by this means have the benefit of the Act, while the English inventor, by publishing his patent before the world, would lose all right to a foreign patent, except in America; that, in fact, unless foreign countries passed a reciprocal law of some sort, every foreign country except America might, if it liked, take advantage of this patent. The witness further said, that in order to secure a patent from being infringed in foreign countries, it would be absolutely necessary to take out a patent in those countries before he secured one in England. These witnesses all agreed in opinion that the Bill would be decidedly disadvantageous to English inventors; and believing that nothing could be more injurious than to give foreigners a privilege which they never before possessed, and to deprive Englishmen of the rights which they now had, he should move that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill this day six months.

Amendment proposed—

"To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House will upon this day six months resolve itself into the said Committee,' instead thereof."

said, he hoped the House would not agree to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, but would allow the Bill to be considered in Committee. He need not remind the House that the Bill came down from the House of Lords, where it was very carefully considered by a Select Committee, and considerably amended; and at last, after much consideration, sent down in its present shape. It was true that many objections were offered to various particulars by the witnesses who were examined before the Committee; but those objections had reference to the Bill which was originally introduced into the House of Lords, and not to the Bill now before the House. Of all the witnesses examined, he believed only one, a very respectable gentleman no doubt, was not altogether satisfied with the present Bill; but he stood along in his opinion. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Arkwright) even stated that the Bill was not required; but he could assure the hon. Gentleman that he bad received applications, not from foreigners only, but from Englishmen, from persons resident in Birmingham and different parts of the country, who intended to exhibit their inventions at the proposed Exhibition; all asking him to support the measure which had been brought into the House, as they considered it would protect their inventions. He must say, that of all the Members of that House, when he called to mind the illustrious name which the hon. Member bore, he thought the hon. Member was the last man who could be expected to oppose any Bill for the protection of ingenuity and inventions—whether of foreigners or Englishmen; for he contended that the foreigner would not be more benefited by the Bill than the Englishman. No preference would be given to the one or the other, and he believed that this country would ultimately derive great benefit and advantage from the inventions which would be brought here from the different parts of the world. All objections to the Bill would be much better met and discussed in Committee. His hon. Friend the Master of the Rolls, who had given infinite attention to the subject, would be prepared to defend the provisions of the Bill in Committee, and he believed he would have to suggest some Amendments if the House consented to go into Committee. He, therefore, hoped the House would not delay going into Committee, where the alterations and amendments could only be properly considered.

said, he hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Arkwright) would not object to this Bill going into Committee. There were many imperfections in the Bill, but he thought they might be remedied. He could fully concur in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, that there were many persons intending to exhibit but who would not do so if such a Bill as this were not passed.

said, he should support his hon. Friend (Mr. Arkwright) in his opposition to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said his hon. Friend (Mr. Arkwright) was the last person who ought to have risen in opposition to this Bill. Now he thought the hon. Gentleman had done himself much credit, and had shown a proper feeling towards his country, and that he was not to be dictated to by a mercenary Treasury bench. They held together per fas et nefas. The right hon. Gentleman said there was a necessity for bringing in a Bill of a similar character to that before the House. Why, as he had before stated, a Committee had reported in 1829 that an alteration in the patent laws was necessary; but nothing had been done from that time to this by the President of the Board of Trade, or any of Her Majesty's Government. And now they propose an alteration, all in consequence of this Exhibition. The Bill was foisted on the House on account of the concern in Hyde Park, and of the set of foreigners for whose benefit that concern had been got up. In fact, he had no end of communications corroborating this opinion about the matter, and about the—he knew no epithet too strong to apply to it—concern in Hyde Park; a concern full of trickery, fraud, and immorality—a concern by which morality, virtue—(Much laughter)—he was not surprised to hear virtue and morality sneered at in that assembly—by which virtue, morality, religion, social good feeling, prudence—by which all these things would be destroyed. It was nothing more or less than an encouragement of the hypocritical foreigner at the expense of the industrious Englishman. He would bow to no one, he was subservient to none; and, next to his loyalty to the Queen, his warmest feeling was for his fellow-creatures, who, he was afraid, were too much forgotten in the present day. By his fellow-creatures he meant the industrious workmen of this country, and not your fawning hypocritical foreigner. He would admit that there were respectable persons in every country, but it was not for them that this Bill was intended. The mechanics of this country had been too much forgotten, notwithstanding that they paid rates and taxes, and had clothed more than half the Treasury bench. With such, his honest feelings, he should he ashamed of himself if he did not rise and protest against such a system of trickery, fraud, and corruption. He should certainly support the Amendment of his hon. Friend.

did not rise to complain of Her Majesty's Ministers for introducing this Bill; but he must say that he doubted the policy of the Bill, and the wisdom of those who sought for it. His experience of the patent laws would prevent him from exhibiting anything for which he subsequently intended to take out a patent, and every man who did would repent his folly. The Englishman who exhibited under the protection of this Bill, would have his patent in England secured to him; but the foreigners could take away the invention and obtain patents for it, if they chose, in every country in Europe. The foreigner who exhibited would be protected by this Bill from English competition, and would suffer no loss in his own or in foreign countries. In his opinion, it was a Bill decidedly to the advantage of the foreigner.

would support the Amendment, especially after the evidence read by the hon. Gentleman who moved it, and the speech of the hon. Member for Birmiugham, with whose remarks he completely concurred. He thought there was more in this measure than struck the eye. A large shop in Regent-street had just been opened; and it was covered with placards in French, English, Spanish, German, Italian, and other languages, announcing that goods sent to the Exhibition, and others which had come too late, would be sold there. Here, then, was a bazaar, part and parcel of the Exhibition—an off-shoot from it—for the express purpose of receiving similar goods and exhibiting them for sale. What would be the result? Suppose a person going to the Exhibition; he would behold there a great number of very beautiful specimens of jewellery, silk, or whatever it might be, that would please his fancy or suit his wants; and he would see an advertisement telling where he could procure them. Thus a vast quantity of foreign goods would be disposed of in England to the prejudice of the native producers.

said, that any man who took out a patent in this country was obliged to specify his invention. Any foreigner might come and take that specification, and obtain a pa- tent in his own country. He could not be prevented, unless the English inventor, on taking out the specification in this country, took out a patent for a foreign country. No law passed in this country could affect the law of another country. If an Englishman wished to show an invention at the Exhibition, he would act as in ordinary cases. He might be satisfied with an English protection, or if not, he might apply for a patent in a foreign country. All that the Bill would do would be to give him protection in this country; and it would also give the foreigner protection in this country. But both the Englishman and the foreigner might take out a patent in a foreign country, and protect their rights exactly as in this country. The hon. Member for Dublin said that there was a shop in London where a great number of articles would be sold. At this moment, a person might import any quantity of goods on paying the duty for them; and when a great concourse of persons was expected in London, it was quite natural for persons to try to sell both foreign and English goods. The evidence taken before the House of Lords related to a different Bill. In consequence of that evidence, the Bill was modified, and the present Bill was the result of the evidence.

said, the objection of the hon. Member for Dublin was, that the Bill would give a patent right of protection to articles exhibited, which articles were to be sold at the shops. ["No, no !"]

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 132; Noes 42: Majority 90.

List of the AYES.

Adderley, C. B.Charteris, hon. F.
Aglionby, H. A.Chichester, Lord J. L.
Anstey, T. C.Childers, J. W.
Baird, J.Christy, S.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.Clay, J.
Bell, J.Clifford, H. M.
Bellew, R. M.Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.
Berkeley, Adm.Collins, W.
Berkeley, C. L. G.Cowan, C.
Bernal, R.Cowper, hon. W. F.
Blair, S.Craig, Sir W. G.
Blake, M. J.Crawford, W. S.
Boyle, hon. Col.Dalrymple, Capt.
Brotherton, J.Dawson, hon. T. V.
Bunbury, E. H.Douglas, Sir C. E.
Burke, Sir T. J.Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Carew, W. H. P.Duncan, G.
Cavendish, hon. C. C.Duncuft, J.
Cavendish, hon. G. H.Dundas, Adm.
Cavendish, W. G.Ebrington, Visct.

Ellis, J.Ogle, S. C. H.
Evans, W.Paget, Lord A.
Fagan, W.Paget, Lord C.
Fordyce, A. D.Palmerston, Visct.
Forster, M.Parker, J.
Freestun, Col.Pechell, Sir G. B.
Gallwey, Sir W. P.Pigott, F.
Gaskell, J. M.Pilkington, J.
Grace, O. D. J.Plumptre, J. P.
Grenfell, C. P.Power, N.
Grenfell, C. W.Price, Sir R.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.Rawdon, Col.
Grey, R. W.Ricardo, O.
Hall, Sir B.Rice, E. R.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F.Romilly, Col.
Hastie, A.Romilly, Sir J.
Hatchell, rt. hon. J.Russell, F. C. H.
Hawes, B.Salwey, Col.
Heald, J.Seymer, H. K.
Henry, A.Seymour, Lord
Heyworth, L.Shafto, R. D.
Hindley, C.Smith, J. A.
Hobhouse, T. B.Smollett, A.
Hollond, R.Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.
Jackson, W.Sotheron, T. H. S.
King, hon. P. J. L.Spooner, R.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H.Stanford, J. F.
Langston, J. H.Stanton, W. H.
Lewis, G. C.Strickland, Sir G.
Locke, J.Thicknesse, R. A.
Lockhart, A. E.Thompson, Col.
Lockhart, W.Thompson, Ald.
M'Cullagh, W. T.Thornely, T.
M'Neill, D.Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Mahon, The O'GormanTownshend, Capt.
Mangles, R. D.Tufnell, rt. hon. H.
Masterman, J.Vivian, J. H.
Matheson, Col.Wakley, T.
Maule, rt. hon. F.Walpole, S. H.
Miles, P. W. S.Westhead, J. P. B.
Morris, D.Williams, J.
Mulgrave, Earl ofWilson, J.
Naas, LordWilson, M.
Napier, J.Wrightson, W. B.
Nugent, Sir P.
O'Connell, J.Hayter, W. G.
O'Connell, M. J.Hill, Lord M.

List of the NOES.

Baldock, E. H.Halsey, T. P.
Barrington, Visct.Hodgson, W. N.
Barrow, W. H.Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Bateson, T.Knox, Col.
Beresford, W.Lennox, Lord A. G.
Best, J.Mackenzie, W. F.
Bremridge, R.Mullings, J. R.
Bunbury, W. M.Mundy, W.
Burghley, LordMuntz, G. F.
Clive, H. B.Newdegate, C. N.
Davies, D. A. S.Newport, Visct.
Dod, J. W.Packe, C. W.
Duncombe, hon. A.Renton, J. C.
Edwards, H.Stanley, E.
Farnham, E. B.Sturt, H. G.
Floyer, J.Taylor, T. E.
Forbes, W.Tyler, Sir G.
Frewen, C. H.Waddington, H. S.
Galway, Visct.Yorke, hon. E. T.
Gilpin, Col.
Gooch, E. S.TELLERS.
Grogan, E.Arkwright, G.
Gwyn, H.Sibthorp, Col.

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.

Clause 7.

said, as some objection had been taken to this clause, he would withdraw it for the purpose of substituting another, providing that protection shall be extended to all new and original designs, which shall be provisionally registered and exhibited, notwithstanding such designs may have been previously published and applied elsewhere than in the United Kingdom, provided that such designs have not been publicly sold or exposed to sale previous to such Exhibition. He now proposed to strike out the 7th Clause.

understood that, if a foreigner had exhibited goods abroad and came here, he would have the same protection as if they had not been exhibited.

said, the effect of the clause which it was proposed to insert, like that of all the other clauses, would be more for the protection and benefit of the foreigner than of the Englishman. They could not, by any measure of theirs, effectually interfere with the rights and interests of foreigners; and he therefore thought it unprofitable and unwise to attempt to legislate on the subject.

said, that the objection of the hon. Baronet the Member for Petersfield seemed directed not so much against the Bill as against the Exhibition. He agreed with him, that there was a great deal of danger to be apprehended from the Exhibition; but, without a Bill of this kind, the danger would be still greater.

Clause struck out.

objected to the preamble of the Bill, inasmuch as he wished that it should contain no allusion to the forthcoming great Show. He moved as an Amendment, that the preamble be, "Whereas it is expedient that such alterations in the law as hereinafter specified should be made," leaving out any further words.

thought that the preamble correctly described the object of the Bill, and therefore could not assent to the Amendment.

feared that the recognition of the Exhibition in an Act of Parliament would hereafter form the foundation of a grant of public money. On his suggestion last Session, wards similar to those it was now proposed to omit were struck out of the preamble of a Bill.

thought it would be very absurd to object to the recognition of the Exhibition in the preamble, after the House had expressed approval of seven clauses of the Bill, which had no other object than to protect the interests of exhibitors.

was reminded, by the pause in the manner of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade when he got up to oppose the Amendment, of the way in which Dr. Johnson used to poise his sentences, so as to make it impossible sometimes to know whether he was going to answer a question in the affirmative or negative. He thought his right hon. Friend seemed uncertain, when he rose, what answer he would give. In his opinion, it would be far better that the House should not recognise in the preamble of any Bill the Great Exhibition, which it was declared, during last Session, should not be supported by any grant of public money. The recognition of the Exhibition in the preamble of this Bill might be employed as a reason for an application for money at a future period.

thought that the Bill would be equally effectual whether the words objected to in the preamble were retained or not, and they might, therefore, as well be omitted. If it were said that the words in the preamble of a Bill could not be employed as a precedent, it might be remembered that the insertion of the words "Archbishop of Dublin" in a private Act of Parliament had been, in the mouth of one of the great luminaries of the Roman Catholic Church, made use of as a justification of the proceedings that had taken place.

thought the Government, instead of proposing the present measure, ought to have introduced a Bill for reducing the heavy fees paid by poor men on taking out patents for inventions.

could not conceive how any precedent could be established by the mere mention of the word "Exhibition" in the preamble. It might be said, that the use of the word implied a pledge, but then it should be remembered, on the other hand, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government distinctly said last Session that he would be no party to making application for any grant of public money towards the Exhibition. ["No, no!"] He understood the noble Lord to have said so, and he thought that there was at present even less probability of such an application being made than there was last Session. He would give the Bill his cordial support; for he believed that if it were rejected great public inconvenience and disappointment would result to those manufacturers who had made valuable inventions, but who would be prevented from exhibiting them unless they were protected by some measure of this sort.

did not see any objection to the use of the word "Exhibition." He thought that they had had quite enough of Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and the questions to which it related, and that there was no occasion for the illustration which the hon. Member for the city of Dublin had drawn from that subject. But as the matter had been alluded to, he (Mr. Keogh) wished to state that the Act of Parliament of which the hon. Member spoke, had been first brought forward as a justification of certain proceedings of the Government by a noble Lord in another place, who occupies the post of Colonial Secretary.

denied that any declaration had been made by Her Majesty's Government to the effect that no application should be made to Parliament for a grant of money to the Exhibition of 1851. He had twice pressed the Government to give such an assurance; but the only reply he had received was, that at that time there was no intention of making such an application.

was surprised at the struggle which was made to retain the objectionable words. Would any one venture to say that the principle of the Bill would not be equally effectual if it only contained the words "whereas it is desirable to enact the things hereafter mentioned?" He suspected that there must be some secret motive for the introduction and retention of the words objected to.

would not dispute what the hon. Gentleman had just stated. All he maintained was that it was preferable to have a suitable preamble to having an unsuitable one. The intention of the Bill was to protect exhibitors, and it was desirable that the preamble should state that intention. As to making any application for a grant of public money, the only pledge that the Government had given or ought to give was that there existed no in- tention of making such an application, and he believed there was less chance at present of any necessity for such an application than there was last year.

said, the continuance of the conversation strengthened his apprehension and alarm. They had two hon. Commissioners, one of whom most strenuously asserted that he had no intention to apply for any money towards the Exhibition, but still he struggled to get the wedge in. The right hon. Commissioner on the Treasury bench only said, that there was less chance at present that such an application would be made than there was last year. That was not very satisfactory. He did not see why they should not pass over the Exhibition without any notice whatever, and as nothing that would afterwards give the Government a pretext for asking for a grant. As to the necessity of making the preamble agree with the Bill, he would suggest that that might be done by inserting in the preamble the expressions used in the first clause.

thought there was much in the hon. Member's suggestion, and would move that, instead of the phrase now objected to in the preamble, there be inserted the words used in the first clause.

Amendment proposed—

"To leave out from the word 'Inventions,' in line 3, to the word 'Be,' in line 5, in order to insert the words 'In any place previously certified by the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations to be a place of Exhibition within the meaning of the Designs Act, 1850,' instead thereof."

put it to the House if it was worth while to divide on such a question? He must say, if they were afterwards to ground an application for money upon the preamble as it now stood, it would be the weakest pretext that ever Government relied on. He thought they were not exhibiting themselves to any great advantage in thus shrinking from openly stating what was their objection to this Bill.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question,"

The Committee divided:—Ayes 92; Noes 56: Majority 36.

House resumed. Bill reported with Amendments; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.

The House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.