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Thursday, 4 July 1946

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The principal object of the bill is to remove certain disadvantages which have occurred by reason of the delay at' present existing in the examination work, of the Patent Office. That delay has been brought about in part" by the fact that a large number of examiners of patents - representing over 60 per cent, of the staff - were released1 during the war from the Patent Office for service in the forces and in other departments. The delay has also 1 een partly brought about by reason of an abnormal and entirely unpredictable increase of the number of applications for patents. This increase appears to bc largely due to the great industrial de- \velopment which has taken place in Australia in recent years. Many overseas manufacturers discovered during the war that the Australian market was worthwhile, and that they cannot obtain royalties for the use of their inventions in Australia unless they patent them here. In 1939, the number of applications for patents was 5,700; last year it was 7,300; and it is expected that this vear the number will exceed 10,000. In passing, I should like to mention that the state of the work in the Australian office is not singular, that the position in the British office is practically the same, and that the state of work in the United States office; is also far above normal.

Every effort is being made to obtain the services of additional examiners of patents. It takes, however, at least three years to train an examiner fully in his work, and it is theref ore evident that some considerable time will elapse before any substantial reduction is made of the arrears of examination work in the Patent Office. Any serious delay in the examination of patent applications has a detrimental effect on inventors, and onindustrial development. In the 'first place, .the delay abridges the inventor's rights in his invention because it abridges' the life of his patent, which commences from the date of application. Secondly, manufacturers who desire to embark on new projects do not know of the inventions which may be lying dormant in' the Patent Office and may ultimately interfere with their own developments.

The normal procedure in connexion, with an application for a patent is that after it has been examined and passed by an examiner,, it is accepted by the Commissioner and thrown open to public inspection. Any person who considers that he would be prejudicially affected by the application, if granted, may lodgeopposition within, three months. If there is no opposition, or' the opposition is dismissed, a patent is sealed on the application, and that patent dates from the dateof. the. application and runs for sixteen years. The inventor, however,, may not commence any action for infringement until his patent has been sealed, and' then only in respect of infringementsoccurring after the publication of thecomplete specification, which takes placewhen the application has been accepted. The Patents Act contemplates ' that normally an application would be accepted within twelve months and the patent sealed within sixteen months. These times were substantially observed beforethe war. At the present time, however, publication consequent upon acceptancedoes not take place until approximately two years after the date of. application. The rapidity of technical developmentstaking place at the present day is such that the effective life of many patents i* very much less than the period of sixteen years for which they are granted,, so that a delay of even two years represents a greater proportion than one-eighth of theeffective life of the patent.

As far as industrial' development isconcerned - a matter to which the patent system is primarily- directed - delay in publication of specifications leaves manufacturers in the dark, and hampers them in their- developmental activities. Under1 the existing law, a- specification remainssecret and is not published until it" has been accepted. At the present time, this does not, as I have mentioned, take place until about two years after the application is lodged. In- other words, the undue prolongation of the secrecy period is embarrassing to. manufacturers. A partial solution of the difficulties of inventors and manufacturers alike lies in the expeditious publication of complete specifications lodged in connexion with applications for patents. This bill, therefore, proposes to amend the law so as to provide for the publication of complete specifications forthwith after lodgment at the Patent Office, and for a patentee, whose invention has been used after publication, to be entitled to damages for infringement committed from the date of publication forthwith after the lodgment instead of from the date of publication consequent upon acceptance. Damages are, of course, only recoverable if a patent is ultimately sealed on the application and only in respect of valid claims. As a corollary to the provisions referred to, the bill also gives protection to persons who may be threatened with infringement actions by applicants on the basis of questionable .or invalid claims, and prohibits the making of false representations that articles are patented or the subject of pending applications. The bill also proposes to make permanent a practice adopted during the war under the National Security Regulations of not examining- a provisional specification until the complete specification has been lodged. In many cases, applications are accompanied by provisional specifications only and lapse by reason of the failure of the applicant to lo'dge a complete specification. The time spent in examining provisional specifications which may lapse will be saved by reason of this amendment.

The passage of the bill will not detract from an inventor's existing rights, but will, in fact, also enable his exclusive rights in his invention to commence at an earlier date. On the other hand, the bill will benefit manufacturers by making it possible for them to ascertain at the earliest possible date what inventions have been evolved by others and are the subject of patent applications, thereby enabling manufacturers to avoid .wasteful duplication of develop- mental activities. 1 trust that the bill will commend itself to the House and be passed without delay.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.

SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)

Repatriation : Medical Treatment; Pensions ; Dependent Parents - Mr. S. M. Falstein, M.P. : Trading Operations - Housing : Rights of exServicemen - Mr. Frank Packer : Importation of Furs - Civil Aviation : North- Western Airlines Limited - War Gratuity: Immediate Availability - Wak Service Homes - Invalid and Old- Age Pensions: Melbourne Offices - Northern Territory : MINING Industry ; Tenant Creek Water Supply.

Question proposed -

That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.

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