Committee on Finance. - Industrial and Commercial (Protection) (Neuchatel Agreement) Bill, 1947—Second and Subsequent Stages.
Wednesday, 10 December 1947
Dáil Éireann Debate
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Lemass): I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. An explanatory memorandum has been circulated with the Bill which will help Deputies to understand its provisions. The laws of all countries relating to patents, designs and trade marks provide for certain periods of time within which application must be made or fees must be paid in order to obtain and maintain the protection of the law. If these times are not observed, applications for protection are refused or existing rights become void. In addition, the protection afforded is only operative in the country in which it is given and inventors, manufacturers and traders are obliged to seek protection in any other countries in which they are interested. Accordingly, not only our own nationals but also foreigners are concerned in the settlement of the legal consequences that may follow from the non-observance of these periods of time.
Owing to the war, with its repercussions on the economic life of every country, many of our own nationals and foreigners who had industrial property rights were unable to comply with the necessary requirements within the stipulated times. The Governments of the various countries took different steps to meet that position. Some from the outset prolonged the stipulated times; others, on the contrary, took no action. With the return of peace it became necessary for the various countries to find a solution of these difficulties. The International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property is the instrument of the International Union which comprises 43 countries, including this country. Through the Swiss Government, a conference was convened for the purpose of finding a uniform solution for the problem and to conclude an agreement. That conference was held at Neuchatel in February last and it was attended by delegates from 27 countries; five other countries were represented by  observers. The agreement drawn up at the conference was signed by the representatives of 24 States and two further States have since adhered to it. At the conference the observers from the United States and Canada indicated they would recommend their Governments to sign the agreement.
This Bill is designed to implement the agreement and is confined to the stipulations of the agreement. The passage of the Bill is a matter of urgency, since most of the periods provided for in the agreement will expire on 30th June, 1948. Accordingly, only a little time remains within which interested parties may avail of the benefits of the agreement. That is why it is desirable to have it passed in the present session.
Mr. H.M. Dockrell: I want to raise a very small point on this section. I take it this means that a patentee may restore his patent, when it has lapsed through non-payment of fees, by the payment of the appropriate amount. I want to make a case to the Minister. I do not suppose it will occur very often and possibly he may say that it will never happen. A patent might, as far as this country is concerned — and remember this country is considered very small beer by people who have patent rights on manufacturing certain things — have lapsed here and somebody might have started to manufacture some article which was covered by the patent. I am not suggesting that a person, when he had made his peace with the Government Department over his patent rights, should not get his patent back again, but what I do not  think he should be allowed to do is this, that he should then be allowed to go for someone who has infringed the patent, retrospectively. If the Minister could assure me on that point, I would feel quite certain it was all right.
Mr. Lemass: That hits at the principle of the whole thing. If a person gets a patent in consequence of having disclosed an invention, then so long as that patent is valid nobody can operate the invention here unless under licence from the patentee. In so far as the patent may have lapsed through the non-fulfilment of the obligations of the Act, such as the payment of fees, arising out of the war, then the purpose of the international convention is to restore the patent rights where, in the opinion of the controller, the non-payment of the fees was due to circumstances arising out of the war.
Mr. H.M. Dockrell: The Minister has not answered the point I am making. The patentee's patent in this country may have lapsed through a variety of circumstances. If somebody finds that out and starts to manufacture some article covered by that patent and then the person comes back and makes his peace with the Patent Office, that person should not, in my opinion, be penalised for something that was not patented in this country when he was manufacturing it.
Mr. Lemass: In Section 4 we are dealing only with the question of the non-payment of fees. There is in Section 11 a safeguard for a person who has undertaken in good faith the exploitation of an invention in the circumstances mentioned by the Deputy. The section provides that he may continue to do so notwithstanding the grant of patent for an invention or the registration of a design pursuant to an application made by virtue of Section 2, or the restoration of a patent for the invention under Section 4.
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