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First Schedule—(Minor And Consequen Tial Amendments Of Principal Act)

Volume 467: debated on Friday 22 July 1949

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I beg to move, in page 40, line 5, to leave out from the beginning, to "and," in line 10, and to insert:

"as soon as may be after the acceptance of a complete specification, the Comptroller shall advertise in the Journal the fact that the specification has been accepted, provided always that on the date of the publication of advertisement the application and specification or specifications filed in pursuance thereof shall be laid open to public inspection and printed copies of the specification or specifications shall be available for purchase."
The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that documents shall be laid open to public inspection and printed copies of the specification shall be on sale on the day on which the acceptance of the complete specification is advertised in the Journal. I believe there has already been some consideration of this matter behind the scenes, and it is understood that this matter will not come into the rules as was at first thought. Therefore, it is necessary to make the necessary provision in the Bill itself.

At present there is a discrepancy between the advertised date of the complete specification and the actual date on which printed copies are available. It is indeed a difficulty which arises in many other forms of printed papers, both Parliamentary and otherwise. The specification cannot be available for inspection by the public in the Patent Office until it has been returned from the printers. It is considered advisable that the Comptroller should wait a few more days until prints are actually available before advertising the acceptance. The Amendment provides that printed copies shall be available, since this is much more satisfactory than merely laying a specification open to public inspection in London. That is not much use to interested persons in the provinces.

The great complexity of many inventions today makes it impossible to gain adequate knowledge of the nature of the invention without a reasonably long study. Some inspection must in these cases be purely nominal, and the treatment of the date on which specifications are open for inspection as the date of publication is certainly a little more than a legal fiction. It is most essential that the printed copies should be available as soon as the announcement is made, or coincidental with it. By accepting our Amendment this procedure will be ensured.

I beg to second the Amendment.

This is only a small point, but I think it would meet the convenience of everybody concerned with patents, and I hope that we shall receive a favourable answer.

I am sorry, but I do not feel that the Amendment is desirable. Perhaps I should explain the point as I understand it. The amendment of Section 9 of the principal Act at present appearing in the First Schedule on page 40 of the Bill provides for the advertisement in the Journal of the date on which the specification will be open to public inspection, the date so advertised being the date of publication for the purposes of the Act. It will clearly be necessary for the date of publication to be shown on the printed specification, and it must, therefore, be marked on the manuscript specification before that document is sent to the printers.

It is intended that printed copies of the specification shall normally be available on the date of publication, the date being fixed in advance so as to allow for the time normally occupied in printing and in transmitting the printed specifications to the Patent Office. But, of course, the receipt of the prints might be delayed by abnormal circumstances—for example, an industrial dispute—and it would not then be practicable to delay the advertisement until the printed copies were, in fact, available, since, as I have stated, it will be necessary to mark the date of publication on the specification before sending it to the printers.

What we have in mind is that when the complete specification is accepted, the fact of acceptance, being a matter of interest to the public, will be advertised as soon as possible and the advertisement will also indicate the date when the specification will be published. The date so advertised will be printed on the specification, and on that date the documents will be thrown open to inspection in the Patent Office and printed copies of the specification will normally be sold.

The present wording of the Bill has been chosen to clear up doubts when the specification is published for the purpose of the Patent Acts. The intended procedure would secure early advertisement of acceptance and early publication of printed copies of the specification, whilst avoiding objections to the present procedure. As I understand the Amendment, it would have the effect of deferring advertisement of acceptance and would require by statute that the Official Journal advertising acceptance and the printed copies of the specification should always be available on precisely the same date to be decided and printed in advance. Such deferment and such requirement seem to me unnecessary and undesirable, and for the reasons which I have given I must resist the Amendment.

Having heard that explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 59, line 8, after "subsection (2)," to insert:

"after the word 'design,' where that word occurs for the second time there shall be inserted the words or for the determination of a dispute as to an invention under section thirty-nine of the Patents and Designs Act, 1949.'"
The object of this Amendment is to enable the Comptroller to require an applicant for determination of a dispute under Clause 39 who is resident abroad, to give security for costs. In other words, Section 73A (2) provides for the giving of security for costs by persons resident abroad in certain proceedings before the Comptroller, and this Amendment applies this provision of the existing law to the new proceedings under Clause 39. The next Amendment in line 9 is linked with this and is purely drafting and consequential.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 59, line 9, after "occur," insert "and the word 'compulsory.'"—[ Mr. J. Edwards.]

I beg to move, in page 60, line 40, at the end, to insert:

"and after that subsection there shall be inserted the following subsection:—
'(1A) Rules under this Act may authorise the comptroller to refuse to recognise as agent in respect of any business under this Act any person, not being registered as a patent agent, who in the opinion of the comptroller is engaged wholly or mainly in acting as agent in applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the name or for the benefit of a person by whom he is employed.'"
This Amendment is one to which I referred earlier, and is in accordance with the undertaking which I gave in the Committee stage to go as far as I could in helping to maintain and improve the standing and professional competence of patent agents.

It is indeed most satisfactory to find that the Government have been able to see their way to accept the spirit of our intentions, and it is to be hoped that the contents of the Bill will be of value to the people it will affect and of general benefit to the community at large.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 63, line 30, leave out "or assignee of such a person."

In page 63, In line 31, leave out from "words," to "in," in line 32 and insert the personal representative."

In page 63, In line 37, after "by," insert:

"after the word 'design,' where that word occurs for the first time there shall be inserted the words 'or by the grant of a patent or the registration of a design on such an application.'"—[Mr. J. Edwards.]

12.41 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I do not wish to make any speech other than to say that a number of the difficult points in this Bill were thoroughly thrashed out in another place, and although the changes made during the Committee stage and since have not been of any great consequence, they have nevertheless improved the Bill. I would say, in passing, that the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) has shown an understanding of this Bill and a willingness to work on it which must have been a shining example to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). My only trouble with the hon. Gentleman was that sometimes he espoused causes which would have met with the full approval of the patent agents and at other times he espoused causes which I am sure must have filled them with hate. But that is the result of having such diverse contacts and such a willingness to espouse the cause of anyone as long as it is related to the Patents and Designs Bill. I wish to express my gratitude to anyone who has helped in any way to improve the Bill, and I hope we may now dispose of it.

12.42 p.m.

I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his kind remarks about the work I have put in on this Bill, though I would not like him to think that I merely represented any one body of persons interested.

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. That was not the point I was making. I simply pointed out his diversity of interests, some of which were inconsistent one with the other.

Remarks could be made about the evils of consistency, but I shall not weary the House with them. At least I sought to obtain the widest views which could improve the Bill. It is rarely that we have a Patents Bill introduced into this House, and I hope that the interval between the passing of this Bill and the introduction of the next one will not be so long, because, while the Bill is good in its present form, one or two matters are still left open to doubt and our future practice may well show them to be incorrect. I hope it will be possible, therefore, in the course of the next year or two, perhaps, to introduce a smaller Bill to deal with such matters.

There is no doubt that a Bill of this kind is of a highly specialised character and is extremely difficult to follow, but it is less than fair if the great principles behind it should be altogether obliterated by the mass of verbiage to which a popular paper such as the "Evening Standard" was prepared to devote a whole leader the other evening. In fact, that paper is showing a quite remarkable interest in new inventions, good and bad, in a series of illustrations taken from a current book.

I hope that our discussions on this Bill will have served to demonstrate to hon. Members opposite some of the fatuities to which they are normally subject. We had the case only two years ago of the present Secretary of State for War being called from his office to inspect an atomic motor car. He was so credulous as to inspect it himself, and I think he even believed the inventor who said, when the motor car would not move, that the motor car manufacturers had sabotaged his invention. I hope that the passage of this Bill will see an end to the stupid assertions often made by hon. Members opposite regarding inventions and their suppression. This Bill provides the answer to all the criticisms of the past and, if passed by the Government, should enable the present system of invention and the development of new ideas to thrive and prosper in the future even more than it has done in the past.

Question put, and agreed to.