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New Clause—(Additions To Principal Act, S 85)

Volume 467: debated on Friday 22 July 1949

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Section eighty-five of the principal Act shall have effect as if:

(a) in subsection (1), line 11, after the word "therefrom" there were inserted the words "or any person who in the course of employment by another person is in the opinion of the comptroller engaged wholly or mainly in acting as an agent for the purpose of applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the name of or for the benefit of his employer, unless he is registered as a patent agent or unless, being an applicant for a patent, he is acting on behalf of one or more co-applicants;"
(b) in line 24, at the end, there were added the following subsections:
"(4) Rules under this Act may provide for the admission to the register of patent agents of any individual who proves to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade that prior to the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, he was while employed by another person bona fide engaged wholly or mainly in acting as an agent for the purpose of applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the name of or for the benefit of his employer and that in consequence of his experience he is suitable to be so registered.
(5) For the purposes of this section an individual shall be deemed to have been acting as an agent for the purpose of applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere if he has been appointed by the applicants for the patents to act for them in the applications or, without being so appointed, has been personally responsible to his employer for the prosecution of the applications."—[Mr. Erroll.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

When we on this side tabled this new Clause we did so before we had knowledge of the Government Amendment to the First Schedule, which deals with this matter. It will not be necessary for me, therefore, to go over the whole story of patent agents with particular reference to this Clause. Suffice it to say that we were anxious that the position which was intended in the Act of 1918 should be in some measure restored. There is no question here of anything in the nature of a closed shop for patent agents, but it was felt that what was deemed desirable then, and has been found to be desirable in subsequent practice, should be adhered to in this Bill. We should like to make sure that if we withdraw this Clause and accept the Government Amendment to the Schedule, the effect of paragraph (b) of the Clause will be secured. We should like to be assured that rules will be worked out to provide the safeguards which are intended in paragraph (b).

I beg to second the Motion.

I wish to reinforce my hon. Friend's plea that what is asked for in paragraph (b) is given either by a firm assurance from the Government or a promise of action. We feel that there is injustice in the prevailing circumstances to duly registered patent agents, and we want to be sure that injustice is not done to those who have done considerable service in this field up to now.

We discussed this point at considerable length in Committee, when I indicated my general sympathy with the view that anything that would help the Institute of Patent Agents to improve the standards of those who work in the profession would be a good thing. I think the broad intention of the new Clause is met by the Government Amendment to the First Schedule, in page 60, line 40.

With reference to paragraph (b) of the new Clause, I imagine it will be appreciated that when the Bill becomes law new rules governing the registration of patent agents will be necessary, and I give the assurance that provision will be made to enable unregistered persons who have for a sufficient period been wholly or mainly employed on the prosecution of applications for patents in the name or for the benefit of their employers to be registered on the Register of Patent Agents. Those rules will be subject to negative Resolution procedure in the House. I hope we shall embody the principle of such changes as are necessary, because of the new circumstances, in the rules. Before the rules are made we shall make sure that all interested parties are brought into consultation, so that the greatest effect will be gained. In the light of that I hope the hon. Member will feel able to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.