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Saturday, 16 December 1905

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I trust that the Minister will agree to the further consideration of the Bill being postponed after the second reading has been taken. I thoroughly agree with the objections that have been raised to it. The instances cited by the honorable member for Bland afford another illustration of the old saving that " hard cases make bad laws."

Mr Watson - We can provide for those cases without amending the principal Act in any other particular.

Mr CONROY - If we accepted the Bill, as framed, in order to deal with the hard cases referred to, we should make an extremely bad law, and instead of having perhaps half-a-dozen cases to deal with, we might have a hundred.

Mr Watson - That could not be so, since the Bill is confined to applications under section 29, and only a few remain to be dealt with.

Mr CONROY - Every case in which application had been made under section 29 would be re-opened. The Bill goes further than is necessary, and that being so, I think we should have time to consider it. It is certainly not the formal measure which the introductory remarks made by the Minister would lead one to believe.

Sir WILLIAMLYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I thank honorable members for having agreed that the Bill should be carried into Committee without delay. When I introduced it, I did not imagine that there would be any lengthy discussion upon it. There are a few cases, similar to those which have been mentioned, that press very heavily upon the persons interested. My object in introducing the Bill was to rectify these anomalies, which have arisen through no fault of the parties concerned.

Mr Webster - How many are there?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The Commissioner tells me that there are very few. I think there are about half-a-dozen, but I cannot say definitely.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The rectification of the half-dozen anomalies might interfere very seriously with vested interests.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable and learned member will recognise that clause 2 is simply to correct anomalies that have arisen in connexion with applications made under section 29 within six months after the commencement of the principal Act. It does not give the Commissioner power to deal with applications made after that date.

Mr Mclean - But might it not interfere with cases in which patent rights for similar inventions have already been granted ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I believe that there are no cases in which patent rights for similar inventions have already been granted ; but I am informed that if there were this provision would not affect them.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am very doubtful about that.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am simply putting before the House the information that hasbeen supplied to me by the legal authorities. I took care to put the question to one of the law officers, and I have been informed thatif between the occurrence of the mistake and the present stage some one else had secured apatent right in re- spect of the inventions to which any of these cases relate, that right could not be taken from him.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But people have negotiated on the supposition that the previous applications were informal, so that if we revived such applications we might destroy the rights of others.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not think that that can occur. I know of one case where a man allowed more than the sixteen months referred to by the honorable member for Bland to elapse before securing the sealing of his patent. This was due to illness ; and although he presented the necessary fee a few days after the time had expired, the Commissioner was not able to accept it. The invention is a very important one, and although the man interviewed me on the subject I could do nothing for him.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The innocence of the mistake would not prevent it from seriously affecting another property.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I quite admit that. But if in the meantime another person had come in and secured a right in respect of the invention, this man, through no fault of his own, would have lost it for ever. The Commissioner told me that in this respect there could be no clashing under the clause, and it was, perhaps, because of that information that I replied in somewhat heated terms to the honorable and learned member for Parkes.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And perhaps I was also a. little heated.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In view of the information that had been furnished me, I thought that the honorable and learned member was giving the House a misleading view of the position. I was particularly careful to inquire what would be the exact position if two persons attempted to come in. But in the case to which I have just referred, a patent has not been granted to a second applicant, so that if this Bill be passed the hardship which the man has suffered will be removed.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But we have to consider whether, in order to rectify halfadozen cases, it is necessary to pass a Bill which will apply generally.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I have referred to these matters in order to show honorable members that in introducing the Bill, I thought that the provisions of clause 2 were so clear and specific that no harm could arise under it. Objection has been taken to clause 4, which provides that patent rights shall be personal property. That, to my mind, is simply a formal provision. Certain words that would give a clear right to mortgage are missing from the original Act, and this clause is simply designed to remedy that flaw.

Mr Higgins - That is all right, but clauses 2 and 8 are certainly not formal.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I fail to see that clause 2 could have any injurious effect.

Mr Higgins - It might have.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I was informed that clause 8 was designed to deal with cases of the class that I have described.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the House is willing to agree to the second reading, these matters might well be dealt with in Committee.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Quite so. But in view of the observations of the honorable and learned member, I thought it well to make some reply. Several honorable members have taken exception to clause 5, but according to the papers that have been placed before me, and the information with which I have been supplied by the (Commissioner and the Crown Law Officers, a similar provision is to be found in the English Act, and indeed, in most, if not all, Patent Acts. The claims coming before Che Commissioner are so varied that it is impossible to have a set of forms that are suitable to the circumstances of every case.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But I should think that the form of a patent was a most important matter.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The Commissioner tells me that the provisions of clause 5, as I have said, are to be found in other Acts . Clause 6 provides for the insertion of certain words in regard to securing the written consent of a mortgagor, which have been omitted from the principal Act.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why were not these matters dealt with when the original Bill was under consideration? Patent laws are by no means new.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is only reasonable to expect that practical experience in the administration of a Federal Act embracing the legislation of the States, and that of other countries, may lead to thediscovery of certain defects, and that is the reason why they are dealt with in this way. Clause 8 was explained to me by the Commissioner to be intended to deal with cases where, owing to two post towns bearing the same name, a man's valuable property had gone to the wrong town, and, through its non-receipt, he had lost his right. There is power taken in the clause to preserve to a man in such a position his right ; but whether it goes too far or not I do not know. However, if there is going to be a long discussion about the matter, I shall ask the House to go into Committee to-day fro forma, and see whether, by Monday, we cannot come to a solution of the difficulty, and so relieve those persons who are now oppressed; in consequence of the absence of some such legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.

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