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Friday, 14 May 1915

Senator BAKHAP - No one will deny that the Germans possess a very great deal of technical skill and scientific knowledge. Many prominent orientalists attribute eastern stagnation to the fact that never in the history of any oriental country has there been such a thing as a patents law. The possessors of inventive ability in such countries have been discouraged, because when a man invented anything it became at once the property of the public, and he derived no pecuniary advantage from his invention, unless it was one the secret of which might be held solely by himself. In revolutions and turmoils in those countries, whole families disappeared, and with them the secrets of many inventors. Modern civilization is particularly distinguished by the endeavour to preserve for an inventor the power to profit by his invention. This condition of things has been interfered with by the existence of the war. But the war as we are waging it is to maintain, and not to subvert, civilization, and we have to consider what will be the condition of things existing when the peace for which we all hope is declared. Some people are sanguine enough to believe that peace will be declared in two or three months' time, and others, who are not quite so optimistic, believe that it will be declared in a year or two. We all hope that ultimately we shall enjoy a fairly permanent peace. There are British holders of patents which are no doubt suspended in Germany at the present time, but when peace is declared I think that all patentees will expect to be treated upon civilized lines, and to be re-established in possession of the rights enjoyed under their patents.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30p.m.

Senator BAKHAP - I am one of those who believe that it is necessary for us to defeat our enemies in the present struggle by force of arms. It is repugnant to one's idea of justice to affirm, not only that an enemy patent may be voided on the application of one of our own people, but that damages may be awarded against the holder of that patent. This somewhat-to-be-deprecated policy will certainly cut both ways, for I assume that there are British holders of very lucrative patents in Germany, and if we attempt to put into force legislation of this character, the Germans will be sure to retaliate tenfold.

Senator de Largie - We ought not to shoot a German for fear that he may shoot a Britisher. That is the honorable senator's argument.

Senator BAKHAP - I do not agree with the honorable senator. May I ask him against whom the Minister will have power, under this amendment, to award costs ? Against the patentee, who, in the very nature of things, will not be able to appear during the proceedings.

Senator de Largie - Of course he will. The Thermit Welding Process Company has its head-quarters in Sydney.

Senator BAKHAP - As a matter of fact, it is part and parcel of our policy to void enemy patents if we are prepared to use them. But it is not consonant with my idea of justice to say that after an enemy patent has been suspended', or a licence has been issued to one of our own people to use it, the successful applicant shall be awarded costs against the patentee.

Senator de Largie - If the applicant does not get a licence he is not successful.

Senator BAKHAP - The honorable senator has already told us that an applicant may be successful in getting an enemy patent suspended without being successful in securing a licence to use it. The proper authority to recompense any applicant who secures the voidance of a patent is the Commonwealth Government.

Senator de Largie - I want to make the Germans pay.

Senator BAKHAP - The application of such a principle is repugnant to civilized thought. If thatis the intention of the honorable senator's amendment, I am afraid that I cannot support it. If the Commonwealth is going to suspend an enemy patent, but is not going to issue a licence to a private individual to use it, obviously the Government intend to derive some pecuniary benefit from it. In that case, I am willing to empower the Minister to grant the successful applicant at least his expenses. We have no accurate knowledge of the im- portant patents which are held in Germany by British subjects, and if we enact this sort of legislation, we may find some British inventor, who has sweated his brain for years in perfecting his invention, invoking curses upon our heads.

Senator O'Keefe - Does the honorable senator think that the German Government will be afflicted by any scruples?

Senator BAKHAP - The German Government is certainly very unscrupulous in the methods by which it wages war, and I believe that some of its financial dispositions have worked out greatly to the injury of British manufacturers. But when peace is restored, I have no doubt that patentees in that country will be reestablished in the position which they occupied prior to the outbreak of war. We must recollect that, as patentees, they have committed no crime, and it would be a retrograde step to penalize men who have been guilty of no offence, but who happen to be the possessors of processes which we believe should be utilized for the benefit of this country.

Senator Senior - That kind of logic cannot be applied to the German nation.

Senator BAKHAP - I am not aware that the German Government are penalizing the foreign holders of patents in the direction outlined by this amendment.

Senator O'Keefe - A country which will order its men to sink a vessel like the Lusitania is not deserving of any consideration at our hands.

Senator BAKHAP - Will not substantial punishment have been meted out to German patentees if their patents are suspended during the period of the war? I do not think that a satisfactory case has been made out for penalizing the holders of German patents in the manner that is proposed. I cannot support the amendment.

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