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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta) ('Attorney-General) . - I think I can shortly put the committee in possession of what the difficulty is here, why the proposal of the Opposition is unacceptable to the Government and why I propose amendments which I hope later to move. The difficulty in the matter is that when the work load in the Patent Office in this country had become so great that publication of the complete specification after acceptance was delayed many years, what was really a stopgap provision was put into this act, allowing the publication of the specification to be made within six months after lodgment, in order to assist the inventor. When the work load had fallen a good deal and publication was not likely to be so long delayed, a special expert review committee recommended the repeal of this provision. I accepted that recommendation and thought it was right.

Subsequently the manufacturers, who had had opportunity to put matters to this committee, said they had not done so adequately; and I agreed to see them and hear their point of view, which I did. But I remained convinced after hearing them that section 43 ought to go, if the positron of the work load of the Patent Office was not deteriorating, thus making the publication date after acceptance too late. In the course of these conferences, I did see that the manufacturers had a problem. I offered them a solution, after consideration, which involved a provision for publication before acceptance, but at the discretion of the commissioner, and not in any case before twelve months. This proposal of mine has not had a very good reception. It has not been rejected, but the patent attorneys and the manufacturers' representatives would prefer me not to pursue it in its present form. 1 have discussed with the manufacturers' representatives what we might do immediately. I think it is fair to say that they realize that some extension of the time of six months that is provided in section 43 ought to be made, and that the extension of time ought to be substantial. But they could not agree with me, in the time available to us, on a particular period. Thus, 1 have set the period at 24 months. In the time between now and the beginning of the next sessional period, or perhaps during the early part of that sessional period, I hope to continue these discussions with the manufacturers' representatives and the patent attorneys to see whether we can arrive at a suitable compromise period of time to be included in the legislation. My inclination now to have some fixed time for publication before acceptance is dictated very largely, if not entirely, by the fact that the work load in the Patent Office has increased substantially, and the anticipated time for publication is now much longer than it was contemplated to be when the review committee made its recommendation. I thought it right that I should respond to these changed circumstances and propose that there be a fixed period, but that it be longer than six months.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) says that there can be no harm in letting the present position rest until some time in the autumn. I would like to point out to the committee that it cannot be allowed to rest in its present state. What has happened is that this country has become a source of information of technical development ahead of most, if not all, of the other countries of the world. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition cited Belgium and France, but their systems of patents are different from ours. They have no period of examination in the patent office as we have, and their six months' period is quite incomparable with the periods of time applicable to our patent system with detailed examination in the Patent Office. "I he fact is that, due to section 43, this country is one in which information can be obtained much earlier than it can be obtained in other countries. People of other countries, including those of the Soviet bloc, desire to know as soon as possible what the latest technological developments are. As a result, many people who have patent applications in the convention countries, and particularly in the United States, will not apply here because the disclosure comes much earlier than disclosures in the countries in which they have made their applications. Even if we lost only a few applications between now and next April, May or June - whenever we are able to work out the final scheme - our country will be disadvantaged. As the patent experts in manufacturing industries can see, with me, that the period of six months is too short, it follows that there must be immediately some extension of time. 1 have deliberately chosen the longest period, because if 1 am to participate in negotiations, it is much better that those negotiations take place from the highest point, as it were, than that they should start off with no period, or a very short period. Any period longer than about twelve or fifteen months would achieve the same purpose, of course, as a period of 24 months, in practical results in the interim.

These are the reasons why the Government cannot accept the amendment offered, and the reasons why I shall later move an amendment, to which I will not speak separately.

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