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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 16 Nov 1926

Vol. 17 No. 1


This Bill has, in fact, had its Second Reading, and the remark which has been publicly made recently that the old Bill had been entirely scrapped and that this is a completely new piece of legislation is quite inaccurate. The old Bill has been scrapped in certain respects, mainly in accordance with the Report which is in the hands of every Deputy. Instead, therefore, of discussing any principle which may be in a technical Bill of this sort, I propose mainly to indicate the two points upon which the Report of the Committee has not been followed, and to give an indication of what has been done on the four points stated at the end of the Report to have been left over for further consideration. I may remark, however, that there has been considerable regrouping of clauses and that the amendments as they appear in the Report do not appear in the Bill literally in the form in which they are presented from the Select Committee.

There are two important changes, however. The Report under heading A. indicates that searches for prior publication are recommended in the London records up to the 6th December, 1921, for so much of the fifty years' period as Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. Of course there will be a search made for the remainder of the period, as from the date of the commencement of the Act down to any application, but there is a gap between these two periods—from 6th December to the date of the commencement of the Act—and for that gap no searches are recommended. It is logically correct, of course, that a disclosure by way of a specification made in Great Britain during that period should not count against an invention which was first published in that short period of years, but the principle has been adopted in the Bill, as one of the changes recommended by the Committee, that all patents up to the date of the commencement of the Act published in Great Britain, for which application has been made and a specification lodged, should be taken over, subject to the power of revocation, and it might happen, if it were not adverted to and an appeal for revocation were made, that two patents would be running concurrently in this State, held by different people. It is accordingly proposed that the gap should be closed and that a search would be made not merely for the period down to 6th December, 1921, and further searches for the period beginning with the date of the commencement of the Act and ending on the date of the application, but also that the search should cover the period that is otherwise left out. That, in fact, is one of the departures from the Report of the Committee. Section 19 sets out what I have been speaking of, and the right of an applicant in this country is safeguarded by Section 12, giving him his power to apply for revocation.

In Part E, Section 52 of the Report, there is a recommendation as to the deletion of a paragraph, the paragraph referring to the provision that the publication of any specification more than 50 years before the date of the application should not invalidate a patent. It has, however, been thought well to retain that provision. All British pre-Treaty patents will be valid in that way, and British patents granted between the Treaty and the commencement of this Act will also be valid in this country, subject to revocation. The point with regard to publication prior to the fifty years' period is not an important one, but if we did not keep this provision it would mean a considerable change in the law between the two countries, and it is not thought worth while to have that change for the very small difference that would be made.

Four matters were left over by the Select Committee for consideration, and these were referred to in the last page of the Report. The first is:—"The provision in Section 164 restricting copyright in Government publications to 50 years, and relating to the ownership of copyright in works published under the control of the British Government."

There are really two points in that, one of which is the point as to the time, and we are keeping the provision with regard to the 50 years' period. It seems to be a reasonable period, and it is, in fact, the one that was in the old Copyright Act of 1911. We have, however, deleted sub-section (3) of Section 164 as it was. It is now Section 167. Sub-section (3) has been deleted because it is considered that the right of the Government of Saorstát Eireann to a share in the ownership of pre-Treaty publications rests, and will continue to rest, on the ordinary law, and in fact, will not be questioned. The second point is "provision for relief from renewal fees in the case of `provisional' and foreign applicants." The word in the Report is "removal." That has been adverted to and the relief has been effected by sub-sections (5) and (6) of Section 12, which provide that in the case of provisional and foreign applicants, they shall only begin to run from the date of the commencement of the Act. Consequently, we are removing the injustice that was spoken of, that we were making people pay for a patent during a period in which no protection was given.

The possibility of using Iris Oifigiúil as the official journal was definitely brought under review and the decision is that it is not possible to make use of it. Under the International Convention we are bound to issue an official journal. It has to be of a highly technical nature, and has to print illustrations of all inventions. For this purpose Iris Oifigiúil as at present issued would have to undergo considerable change. It would have to be issued more frequently, it would be very bulky, and it would prove a much more costly expedient than having Iris Oifigiúil issued as at present, and a separate patents journal issued when required.

The fourth point is definitely provided for in Section 19, sub-section (3), which now indicates that searches may be made not only in London but in the National Library of Ireland and elsewhere, subject to regulations to be issued by the Minister. It may easily happen that particular types of searches may be made in other centres than the Patent Office in London or in the National Library in Dublin. There are other registers which may be used for different types of applications. There are, however, two further points I would like to refer to, outside the Report. In the old Bill there was a Section 61 and a Section 81, which were rather novel, in regard to designs and trade marks suggestive of Irish origin. Section 61 dealt with designs suggestive of Irish origin, and Section 81 dealt with trade marks indicative of Irish origin, and special provisions had been laid down with regard to these. These two clauses have now been deleted from the Bill. They may be reinserted if Deputies think it is right and proper, but the argument against them is that what they sought to effect seems possible of effecting only by an amendment in the Merchandise Marks Act, and not by what was set out in these two sections. In addition to that there is the further point that the Comptroller may, even with these two sections, refuse designs or trade marks, where he considers that they would be contrary to morality, national interest, or a few general things of that sort. I cannot locate the section at the moment. It is considered that the Comptroller will have as much power under the general section as would be given to him under these Sections 61 and 81 if they were retained. However, that is for the consideration of Deputies, and if they see any value in these two sections they may again be put into the Bill.

I will call the attention of the Dáil to the provisions with regard to the supply of books to libraries. It is somewhat changed in this Bill from the Bill that was previously before the Dáil. The changes now made are in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee. It may be thought that these changes are undesirable, or it may be thought that neither the provisions in the earlier Bill nor in the Bill as it now stands, meet the case. Amendments even for the purpose of a discussion on that point will be welcome. The rest of the Bill was mainly as it came from this House many months ago, and I do not propose to deal with it any further.

Question—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.

I suggest this day week, the 23rd November, for the Committee Stage. It is a very lengthy and technical Bill, and I can give any time that is desired for it.

This is a measure of considerable complexity and one will have to consult with the many interests involved before one is in a position to express an opinion on the Bill or to put down amendments. I suggest that the time proposed by the Minister is wholly inadequate for that purpose. I would like, if possible, that a fortnight or three weeks would elapse before the Committee Stage is reached. As is clear to Deputies who have any experience at all of this matter, these are very difficult and complicated questions and they naturally take some time to elucidate. I suggest to the Minister that he should at least give us three weeks so as to leave ample time to consider the measure fully.

Would it suit the Deputy if it were put down for this day fortnight? If, then, that is not found sufficient, and if that does not give sufficient time to Deputies to go fully into the whole matter, the Committee Stage can be further extended.

Committee Stage ordered provisionally for Tuesday, 30th November.