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Wednesday, 5 May 1915

Mr SAMPSON (Wimmera) .- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the clear exposition of the legal position by the honorable member for Flinders and the legal members who have followed him. The question of granting licences is one which no responsible Minister will consent to except after the most exhaustive investigation into the particular character of the patent, and to the nature of the application. The principle of the Bill should be to embody or carry over into the licences just exactly that measure of protection which is afforded the original patentee.

Mr Brennan - Can you give an illustration of one instance to the contrary ?

Mr SAMPSON - I believe that the Government laid down conditions under which the freezing factory should be erected in the Northern Territory. I know that it is not quite on all-fours as an illustration, because a patent is a monopoly, and the granting of a licence by the Crown, generally speaking, is not on all-fours with the monopoly rights that exist under our patent laws. At a time like this, it is advisable that there should be some elasticity in the Act, and discretion allowed the Attorney-General in the administration of any law of this nature. For instance, in Australia we might have 500 patent rights held by Germans, and in the public interest it might be advisable for the AttorneyGeneral to cancel or avoid 480 or 490 of them to allow of the manufacture locally of articles that were formerly protected.

Sir William Irvine - Are you prepared to give the Minister power to prohibit people in the Commonwealth from manufacturing thermit, or something of the kind ? Are you prepared to give the Minister the right to stop people who are manufacturing as against a bad patent?

Mr SAMPSON - I am not prepared to discuss that just now.

Sir William Irvine - That is the whole question.

Mr SAMPSON - No, it is not. I say it might be advisable to do so under existing circumstances. I cannot understand the intention of the Government with regard to the penal clause in the case of a breach of the licences. I cannot understand why that clause was put in. I know that that is the policy of the Government, and I take it to be acceptable to the Opposition generally; but, in my opinion, although in a majority of cases it might be desirable in the public interest that the patents held by enemy subjects should be suspended or avoided, it might also be advisable, in particular instances, for the establishment of industries useful to the Commonwealth, for the Administration to go beyond the patent rights to give security to capitalists.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That can be done by licence now.

Mr SAMPSON - I take it that no greater rights are transferred to a licensee than were possessed by the original patentee. As a matter of general principle, that is as it should be; but in certain cases it may be advisable to give to licensees more protection than was possessed by the patentees. Generally, I am in agreement with the views expressed by the honorable member for Flinders, and accepted by the Attorney-General; but I think that there might be a reserve power which would enable a licensee to be given greater security than was possessed by the patentee, in order that important industries may be established in the Commonwealth. I do not know how far the treatment of the baser metals is dependent on patent rights, but what I suggest might be found very useful in regard to that matter.

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