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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sorry to see the Minister occupying somewhat of the position of a suppliant-

Sir William Lyne - I am asking for something not formyself, but for others.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is placed in the position of having to appeal to the Opposition to enable him to pass this Bill. If he will allow me to say so, he seems to have quite mistaken the nature of my objection. I have listened with great care to his reading of certain papers, which show that a number of departmental errors have been made, which it is highly desirable to rectify. But the Minister does not seem to recognise that the occurrence of these mistakes is no justification for the introduction and passing of a measure which opens up the whole of the patent laws of Australia. There is no step in the process of obtaining a patent concerning which power is not given by the Bill to go back on the whole of the procedure. I wish the Committee to understand that I am not offering factious, opposition : I am simply moved by a desire to protect the interests of a number of people in various parts of Australia who have had no notice of this proposal to make a drastic alteration of the law, which may have retrospective effects. This Bill was, placed in our hands only on Friday last. I then showed the House that it would give the Commissioner of Patents power to revive lapsed applications, and to waive many forms of irregularity. Where certain patentees have acquired rights by reason of the non-compliance on the part of others with provisions of the original Act, the Commissioner is, by this

Bill, to be invested with power to go back on the whole of those proceedings. In order to show that my remarks are well founded, I shall read clause 2. It provides that -

The Commissioner may in relation to any application for a patent made under section 29 of the Patent Act-

There is no time limit.

Sir William Lyne - In the last two lines of the clause a limit of six months is fixed.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But there is no limit to the time in respect of that on which the Commissioner may go back.

Sir William Lyne - This clause relates only to applications under section 29 of the principal Act.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that the Minister will not interrupt me. This is a legal question, and requires to be clearly and succinctly stated, in order that it may be understood by laymen. The clause provides that -

1.   The Commissioner may, in relation to any application for a patent made under section 29 of the Principal Act -

(a)   extend the prescribed time for doing any act or taking any step, and

(b)   revive any application for a patent or any proceeding in relation thereto which has lapsed by reason of an omission to do any act or take any step within the prescribed time.

2.   The prescribed time for doing any act or taking any step may be extended under thissection, although the time has expired......

Mr Deakin - The honorable and learned member knows that section 29 is dead.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it is quite possible that rival applications for patents may have been made under it whilst it was alive, and that two or three applicants may have failed by reason of their non-compliance with that section. On the other hand, some of them may have succeeded; by reason of their success their inventions may have acquired a commercial value, and may have been the subject of advances by capitalists for patent rights. But this clause would give the Commissioner the right to revive the whole of the other applications that had previously failed, and they might come into competition with those over which negotiations had taken place. . I commend the desire of the Minister to do what is right. He has put certain cases before the Committee,, and if it were provided that the cases in question should be referred to the Attorney-General to ascertain whether any vested interests were affected by them, and that those concerned should have sufficient notice to enable them to appear before the Attorney-General to show how their vested interests would be affected, I should have no objection. But to do that, we should have practically1 to reconstruct the Bill. If the Minister is prepared to limit clause 2 to cases in which mistakes or omissions have been made in the Patents Office; to append to the Bill a schedule of cases; and to agree to an amendment that the AttorneyGeneral, and not the Commissioner, shall be made responsible for examining and certifying that no vested interests are being affected by any of these steps, and that notice shall be given in such a way that it will reach the remotest parts of Australia, I do not see that much harm can be done.

Mr Kelly - I do not think that we should agree to the passing of the Bill.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would take a long time to amend the Bill in the way I think necessary.

Progress reported.

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