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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) .- 1 should like to say a few words, and I hope that on this occasion they really will be few. I do not wish to speak so much on behalf of the manufacturers, who seem to have made their wishes well known in this regard, as on behalf of some small inventors who have formed an organization in my electorate. They are particularly concerned - and I have conveyed this to the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) on a previous occasion - about the expense of gaining a patent if it is contested during the process. The people I am referring to are small inventors, and not wealthy people. They have very genuine contributions to make to the advancement of our industrial life.

One can easily imagine the legal and economic difficulties .of those people if, during the process of their applications, they are confronted by submissions and other kinds of thwarting activities by people with vested interests. They also experience considerable difficulty in the detection of infringements of their patents. For the kind of people of whom I am speaking the task of detecting infringements is often difficult. They mention that in many cases, for instance, their inventions may be incorporated in a manufacturing process, and it is quite difficult for an individual or a small group of individuals to detect infringements. Sometimes, of course, the inventors are not even aware of the infringements. They would like me to mention that even where infringements are detected the cost of challenging wealthy firms would be prohibitive, because the inventors are often relatively poor.

The inventor whose patent has been infringed has to sue each of the transgressing firms if he wants to get redress, and challenging wealthy firms is too formidable for an individual inventor unless he has a lot of resources. So the inventors ask that in order to give them the protection that they are not economically able to give themselves they should have the resources of some government instrumentality to call upon. It is just out of the question for such inventors to take on large and established organizations which might infringe their patents, and they suggest as a positive step that a government legal office be established to fight cases for inventors whose patents have been infringed. They suggest that an inventor whose case is fought for him by a public legal office of this kind be required to pay a proportion of the royalties that come to him in the future as a result of the successful prosecution into a Commonwealth fund, which could be used to finance the presentation of other cases, possibly including some unsuccessful ones. Another suggestion that has been made, and to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) referred, relates to the court of first hearing. As I understand it, if a patent has been infringed the Supreme Court or the High Court is the court of first hearing. They are asking for the establishment of a lower court such as obtains in many European countries, notably Germany.

Mr Whitlam - The appeal tribunal under the act is the High Court.

Mr REYNOLDS - In any event, the claim is that a formidable expense is involved in the court of first hearing, and they have directed attention to the courts that operate in Europe, notably in Germany, where a quick decision is given and, on occasions, there is even conciliation by the relevant judge in an attempt to solve the problem. Those judges have been trained in industrial and commercial activities and, at a relatively small expense, are able to give the litigants a guiding decision in the early stages of the dispute. More often than not this guiding decision is accepted. On this basis, quite a number of cases could be dealt with in a few days. It is claimed that under this system the litigants concerned have to meet only comparatively low costs. The small inventors, therefore, benefit.

In making my general plea on behalf of the inventors who are not so well off, I should like to direct attention to the report of a statement that was made by Mr. G. M. E. Williams, head of the Department of Production at the Northampton College of Advanced Technology in London, which appeared in the " SunHerald " of 17th July last. Mr. Williams was an accredited British observer at the congress of the International Federation of Automation Control which has just ended in Moscow. The report is in these terms -

Mr. Williamssaid a key to Soviet progress was the existence of a science committee in every industrial unit in Russia.

New ideas from workshop bench upwards are passed to this committee for examination.

Ideas approved by the science committee get forwarded to the State Planning Commission.

The commission has the power to order manufacture of any equipment to improve output.

This way the hit-or-miss system of capitalism is avoided.

Soviet inventors have no selling problem with a new piece of equipment.

The formidable problem that confronts many of our small inventors is to obtain a market. They allege that many manufacturers in Australia are very shortsighted and do everything to discourage the inventor and to prevent his application being accepted. Even when it is accepted they have devious means of getting around ft so that the small inventor either cannot pay his fees to keep the patent alive, or loses his incentive. The inventors claim that this attitude is in sharp contradistinction to what obtains in other countries. After referring to the fact that a Soviet inventor has no selling problem with a new piece of equipment, the newspaper report continues -

It has been vetted by experts. There is no risk to discourage the man who manufactures anything new that he might go broke trying to sell it.

The small inventors are asking the Commonwealth to protect their inventions. They claim that there should be some fund into which the Commonwealth or inventors who have sucessfully defended claims should make a contribution, such as part of the subsequent royalties, so that other inventors needing assistance can turn to the fund. In addition, they are asking the Commonwealth to set up an inexpensive court of first hearing so that they can obtain justice at a relatively low cost. This is essential now when we are trying to promote trade in our manufactured goods. They ask also that inventors who feel that they have something good to offer on the international market should have the opportunity to display their inventions at the trade fairs in which Australia is participating. Early this year there was a great engineering exhibition in Sydney at which the association with which I have been in touch had an exhibit. The promotion of inventions in this way could make a substantial contribution to Australia's production. I hope that the Attorney-General will give some consideration to the pleas that I have made on behalf of the association.

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