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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - Since this Bill was under consideration the other day, I have received two deputations from patent agents.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not from any body of patent agents, but from individuals. A deputation has waited upon me from the Patents Institute.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The Patents Institute is a very peculiar institute. The deputation which waited upon me absolutely approved of this Bill, as, far as it went, but wished me to provide for an appeal being made from the Commissioner to a Crown Law officer, which I declined to do. The clause to which objection was taken the other day was clause 8.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I objected to other clauses also.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - There is nothing in those provisions to which objection can be taken.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The earlier clauses do not say that the Bill has been introduced in consequence of mistakes committed by the Department.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The Commissioner says -

Section 29 of the Patents Act provided that applications for patents could be lodged immediately after the Commissioner was appointed, but any patent granted pursuant to the application was to be dated as of the day of the commencement of the Act. Such appointment took place on the 3rd of February, 1904, the patent office was established on 12th February, 1904, and the Act came into operation on ist June, 1904. Section 48 of the same Act is as follows : - " Unless a complete specification is accepted within 12 months of the date of application, or such further time as is prescribed, then save in the case of an appeal having been lodged against the refusal the application shall lapse."

I would point out that the period from which these applications dated is doubtful. The Commissioner proceeds -

The office was fully seized of the difficulties in regard to the administration of section 29, and in reference to applications under this section, a. special rule as to the prescribed time as empowered by section 48 was provided (see last paragraph of rule 16 of statutory rules 1904, No. 70, which reads as follows : - " But in the case of complete specifications lodged under section 29 of the Act the Commissioner may extend the period for such acceptance to six months without the payment of a fee.")

The time therein prescribed, namely, six months, was expected to prove sufficient to meet the difficulties likely to arise, but experience has shown to the contrary, hence the necessity for the amendment.

Section 2 of the present Bill applies only to applications under Section 29 of the Patents Act 1903, and ceases to exist on the expiration of a period of six months after the commencement of this Act.

The honorable and learned member for Parkes, and one or two others, desired to know to what cases the Bill will apply. There are only two of importance, namely, Nos. 342 and 389. The applications for sealing the patents concerned in those cases can only be validated by the amendment of section 2 of the principal , Act. The Commissioner gives particulars of the applications on which the acceptance fees were paid too late to permit of advertising and sealing within the prescribed time, but in which no request has been received from the applicants or their agents. These applications are likely to lapse. There are three cases coming within that category. There are also a number of cases in which applications were made, upon which acceptance fees were paid, and notices of acceptance advertised in the Australian Official Journal of Patents, but in which the applicants, or their agents omitted to pay the sealing fee of £5 within the statutory period allowed by section 67 of the Patents Act 1903, or any extended period allowed by regulation 16 of the Patents Regulations 1904, No. 70. There are twenty-two applications under section 29 which have been refused, abandoned, or withdrawn, &c, 407 in which letters patent havebeen issued, and fourteen which may yet be complied with. These are all. the cases that could possibly be affected by this clause, and most of them have already been dealt with.

Mr Crouch - How many searches have been made for lapsed patents and have been acted upon?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am informed by the Commissioner of Patents that searches have been made in every case to which I have referred.

Mr Crouch - The people concerned may have been searching in order to use those patents. I think ample notice should have been given of the intention to proceed with this Bill.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am informed by the Commissioner that a large number of these cases are not likely to be dealt with. I believe that only in a few of the smallercases is application likely to be made under this clause. I do not wish to have a long debate on this question.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Bill will not pass in its present form.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In the interests of those who are labouring under a hardship, and should be granted some relief, it is my duty to test the feeling of the Committee; but if there is no chance of passing the Bill I shall not waste the time of honorable members.

Mr King O'Malley - There is no hope of getting the Bill.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member, I understood, was strongly in favour of it. I am prepared to agree to the omission of clause 8 if the Committee will not insist upon the proposed schedule. The remaining clauses are really formal.

Mr Bamford - Will it affect people spread all over the States?

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; I havean amendment to provide that notice shall be given all over the States.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I think that applications are likely to be made under this clause only in the five cases to which I have specially referred. Inquiry has been made by the Department in reference to nearly all the other cases, and I am informed that they do not think that other applications will be made. Had it been my intention to ask the Committee to accept the Bill as it stands I. should have read a. great deal of information that 1 have before me; but, in the circumstances, I shall refrain from doing so. On a previous occasion I was asked the reason forthe introduction of clause 8. There were two reasons. The first was the misdirection of a letter, which caused endless trouble, and possibly, loss, to an individual who was blameless in the matter, while the other was a mistake that arose through the fact being overlooked that a sealing fee was paid on the last day on which a patent could be sealed.I believe the incident occurred on a holiday. An official in the Department, overlooking the fact that it was the last day on whichthe fee could be paid, left the office without arranging for the sealing. Ibelieve that there are a good many cases in which, through the mistakes of the office, inconvenience has been caused, and the object of clause 8 was to enable office errors to be rectified. I hope that honorable members will allow the Bill to go through in the form I have indicated, so that some relief may be given to those who are hard pressed in the absence of such legislation.

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