Patents (Amendment) Bill, 1999: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

In 1999 the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Tom Kitt, introduced the Copyright and Related Rights Bill which, as the Deputies know, is now on Committee Stage. The present Bill, which is a much narrower measure, relates to another major area of intellectual property, namely patents.

The granting of patents for new inventions in order to secure to the inventor the exclusive right to exploit the invention for a limited period of time is a long-established and well-known instrument of promoting technical innovation and industrial development. After the Industrial Revolution and from the nineteenth century onwards, all industrialised countries established their own patent system tailored to meet each country's industrial strategy. The desirability of some international harmonisation on patents was recognised as far back as the nineteenth century and the first International Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property or the so-called Paris Conven tion was signed in 1883. This convention has been revised several times since then and now 157 countries, including this State, are party to it. Under this convention, member countries must provide equal and reciprocal treatment in patent matters for nationals of other member countries and recognise the priority date of an application filed up to 12 months earlier in another member country. The convention also stipulates the conditions under which a country can grant a compulsory licence if a foreign owned patent is not being worked in its territory.

A further landmark in international development was the Patent Co-operation Treaty concluded in Washington in 1970 which came into force in 1978. The main objective of the treaty is to streamline patent application filing and novelty search procedures for applicants wishing to obtain patent protection in several countries belonging to the treaty. The treaty was not concerned with the establishment of an international patent but with an international procedure for sharing the work on processing patent applications in patent offices.

In Europe, efforts to create a common patent system resulted in the establishment of the European Patent Convention, EPC, in Munich in 1973. That convention established a European Patent Office in Munich whose function is to grant, on the basis of one central application to that office in any of its official languages, that is, English, French or German, patents which would be valid in each contracting state designated by the applicant. In effect a "bundle" of national patents emerge from a European patent application and in each designated country the European patent has the same legal effect as one granted by the local national patent office. European patents are granted only after an in-depth examination following a comprehensive novelty search in a collection of several million documents and, therefore, offer a high level of legal certainty.

The EPC is not limited in its membership to EU countries and includes such non-members of the EU as Cyprus, Liechtenstein Monaco and Switzerland. Most EPC contracting states have brought their national patent law into line with the EPC. Industry today operates internationally to a far greater extent than it did when the European Patent Convention was established in the 1970's. There can be little doubt about both the desirability of, and the need for, much more international agreement on patents. In 1993 a major step was taken towards world-wide harmonisation of legislative and regulatory practices with the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPs Agreement negotiated under the GATT. The TRIPs Agreement is an annex to the agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation, WTO, and compliance with the TRIPs Agreement is an essential requirement under the new world trading order. The TRIPs Agreement, which came into effect on 1 January 1995, covers all areas of intellectual property rights including patents.

The main objective of the TRIPs Agreement, as contained in the preamble of the agreement, is to reduce distortion and impediments to international trade by promoting effective and adequate protection of intellectual property rights and by ensuring that measures and procedures to enforce intellectual property rights do not themselves create barriers to legitimate trade. Article 7 of the agreement, entitled "Objectives", provides that the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations. To achieve these objectives the agreement sets out the minimum standards of protection to be provided by each member country.

Article 3 of the TRIPs Agreement obliges each member country to accord the same treatment to non-nationals as it does to its own nationals. Article 4 includes a most-favoured nation provision according to which any advantage, favour, privilege or immunity granted by a member country to the nationals of any other country with regard to intellectual property rights has to be accorded immediately and unconditionally to nationals of all other WTO member countries.

The standard for patentable subject matter is set in Article 27 of the agreement. Patents shall be available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, inventive and capable of industrial application. Patents shall be available and patent rights enjoyable without discrimination as to the place of the invention, the field of technology and whether products are imported or locally produced.

There are three permissible exemptions to the basic rule on patentability. First, inventions, the commercial exploitation of which would be contrary to "ordre public” or morality, may be exempted. Second, inventions concerning diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans or animals may be exempted. Third, member countries may exclude from patentability “plants and animals other than micro-organisms and essentially biological processes for the productions of plants and animals other than non-biological and micro-biological processes”.

Our existing law relating to patents for inventions is contained in the Patents Act, 1992, as amended by section 75 of the Trade Marks Act, 1996, and sections 4 and 5 of the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1998. The 1992 Act enabled Ireland's ratification of the European Patent Convention and the Patent Co-operation Treaty.

In general, the 1992 Act is in compliance with the provisions of the TRIPs Agreement relating to both the standard for patentable subject matter and the subject matter which may be excluded from patentability.

The main objective of the present Bill is to update the existing law to accord with the provisions of the TRIPs Agreement. The main area where existing law needs to be updated relates to provisions concerning compulsory licences. The right given by the grant of a patent is, in essence, a right, enforceable through courts, to prevent others from making, importing, using or selling the patented product. However, the patentee need not exercise this right – he may licence others to do so.

The 1992 Act contains provisions in sections 70 to 75 concerning the compulsory licensing of patents without the authorisation of the patentee. The existing provisions of section 70(2), that the patent is not being adequately worked, the demand for a patented product in the State is being met by importation and commercial working of the invention in the State is being hindered by importation, are inconsistent with EU law and contrary to Article 27.1 of the TRIPs Agreement which provides that "patents shall be available and patent rights enjoyable without discrimination as to place of invention, the field of technology and whether products are imported or locally produced".

Essentially this means that where a patented product is exploited in any member country of the WTO and is then imported into another country in sufficient quantities to satisfy domestic demand, there a compulsory licence cannot be granted in that other country.

Additionally, pursuant to Article 31 of the TRIPs Agreement, numerous conditions must be adhered to by member countries of the WTO should such countries provide for the possibility of granting compulsory licences under a patent. Prior to the granting of a compulsory licence the applicant for the licence must show that reasonable efforts to obtain a contractual licence from the patentee have failed. The licence shall be limited as to its scope and duration and it shall be of non-exclusive nature. The compulsory licence shall be non-assignable and shall be granted predominantly for the supply of the domestic market. The compulsory licence shall be terminated if and when the circumstances which led to it cease to exist and are unlikely to recur. The patentee shall be compensated adequately depending on the circumstances of each case. The legal validity of the compulsory licences as well as any decision relating to the compensation shall be subject to judicial review.

Where compulsory licences are granted in order to permit exploitation of a second patent which cannot be exploited without infringing a first patent, three additional conditions apply – the invention claimed in the second patent shall involve an important technical advance of considerable economic significance; the patentee of the first patent shall be entitled to a cross-licence, that is, a licence to use the invention claimed in the second patent, and the licence in respect of the first patent shall be non-assignable except with the assignment of the second patent. Sections 9 to 13 of this Bill amend the existing provisions concerning compulsory licensing of patents as contained in sections 70 to 75 of the 1992 Act to bring them into line with the TRIPs Agreement.

Under section 25 of the 1992 Act, a filing of a previous application in a Paris Convention country may give rise to a priority right in a subsequent application in the Irish Patents Office. Section 5 extends the provisions of section 25 of the Act to WTO member countries which were not party to the Paris Convention. A filing in a country not party to the Paris Convention can also give rise to priority if the Government makes an order to that effect consequent upon bilateral or multilateral agreements. Two such orders made previously will become superfluous when section 5 comes into operation and accordingly section 17 provides for their revocation.

Section 16 of the Bill repeals the transitional provision set out in paragraph 4 of the First Schedule to the 1992 Act as that provision is inconsistent with Article 28 of the TRIPs Agreement which stipulates that where the subject matter of a patent is a product, the patent owner shall have exclusive right to "prevent third parties not having the owners consent from the acts of making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing" that product for those purposes.

I am also amending certain provisions of the 1992 Act by way of correction or clarification and to bring certain other provisions into line with changes effected under the European Patent Convention. The criteria as to what is patentable subject matter and the requirements of novelty as laid down in sections 9, 10 and 11, respectively, of the 1992 Act are based on the corresponding provisions of the EPC. These may be modified, under section 9(5) of the 1992 Act, by order by the Minister for the purpose of giving effect to any future amendment of the EPC. However, section 9(5) of that Act incorrectly provides that the EPC can be amended by "any international treaty, convention or agreement". In fact, the EPC can be revised only by a conference of the contracting States and section 3 effects the necessary amendment.

Another section requiring correction relates to section 58 of the 1992 Act concerning revocation of patents. Article 138 of the European Patent Convention specifies the only grounds upon which a European patent may be revoked under the laws of EPC contracting States. The permissible grounds for revocation as specified in section 58(a) to (e) correspond generally to the provisions of the EPC except in relation to section 58(d). The aim of the amendment proposed by section 7 of this Bill is to bring the existing provisions on the grounds for revocation of patents into conformity with Article 138 of the EPC.

Section 15 of the Bill amends section 120(3)(d) of the 1992 Act to take account of certain changes made to the EPC in 1997. The amendment adds a proviso to section 120(3)(d) to correspond to a similar provision in new Rule 23(a) inserted in the implementing regulations to the EPC. Section 14 of the Bill relates to translation requirements pertaining to European patent applications designating Ireland and is being included at this stage in anticipation of general agreement being reached in various international law and policy fora, including the European Patents Office, that it should be possible for applicants for European patents to lodge translations, where this is required, to one central location rather than to the patent office of each country designated in the application, as applies at present.

This is a relatively short and, I hope, non-contentious Bill. Ireland's membership of the World Trade Organisation gives rise to the main elements of the Bill. The remaining amendments are included either as a consequence of our status as a contracting party to the European Patents Convention or because of the need to clarify and correct inaccurate wording in two sections of the 1992 Act.

I commend the Bill to the House.

We will not be opposing the Bill. As the Minister of State said, it is not contentious, though it gives us the opportunity to debate patents generally. It is a technical Bill, as the Minister of State's references to various sections bear out. That is the nature of the legislation and a more detailed discussion would be more appropriate on Committee Stage, though I do not envisage much contention at that point either.

This is not the kind of legislation to keep people awake at night worrying and I do not envisage this debate making the news headlines tonight. However, legislation relating to intellectual property is vitally important to the economy and to our place in the international community. The Minister of State will be aware of our Committee Stage debate on the Copyright and Related Rights Bill, which is proving quite contentious. Members are working hard on that Bill which deals with an important area. Adequate resources will be required in the Department and elsewhere to ensure that this area is managed properly. The intellectual property unit of the Department is under a lot of pressure and I appeal to the Minister of State to ensure it is adequately resourced in order to deal properly with this legislation. They are doing trojan work, but they may need extra help. Deputy Kitt, the other Minister of State at the Department, agrees that extra resources are needed as this area will continue to grow. We have been told that there will be more copyright directives from the EU and that more copyright legislation will be needed; perhaps more legislation will also be needed in this area.

Many people know little about patents. I did not know much about patents until I read up on the matter for this legislation. It is highly techni cal and we should disseminate knowledge about the patenting process. People should know how important the process is and how to apply for a patent; they should be informed of the costs involved and the help available to them – from Forbairt and others – in doing so. Some things can be patented and some things cannot. There is much controversy at present about patenting the human gene and mapping the human gene sequence. Perhaps we should return to this controversial area if other Members do not cover it.

The Minister of State referred to the 1998 Act which moved the office dealing with trademarks and patents to Kilkenny. This office has many specialist staff and though the Government is discussing decentralising other offices, the Copyright and Related Rights Bill will provide that office with much more work and we need to know what extra resources the Government is to make available to it. We cannot have that office snowed under by a raft of new legislation as a result of the Copyright and Related Rights Bill. It is doing extremely important work in the areas of patents and trademarks – we will be dealing with trademark legislation soon – and the office could suffer as a result of the extra workload. Will the Minister of State inform the House of the extra resources to be made available to that office?

Deputy Rabbitte and I raised questions about the move of that office to Kilkenny, but we were not given very clear reasons for doing so. How has that office functioned since its move? I will be raising this on Committee Stage and perhaps we could be given a report on how the office is performing since its move. Were additional staff made available? The Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt, said the technology would be upgraded. Did that happen and if so, what was the effect? What will happen when the Copyright Bill is passed? Substantial resources will have to be made available.

I welcome the Bill as we must take our place in the international community. More information on patenting and copyright should be disseminated. Patenting should be addressed in schools, to let people know what is involved. It is expensive and time consuming to patent an item. A great deal of work is involved in investigating the novelty of the invention. If a person is not careful, an invention can be stolen by another person. If a person makes his or her invention known prior to patenting, he or she will lose the right to patent it. It is a complex, technical, legal and expensive area.

A large company wishing to patent an item has substantial resources to do so. What about inventors working from their garden sheds? Many inventions have taken place in such locations – I think Bill Gates started his business in a shed. We must encourage such people and inform them that support is available and accessible. Forbairt is doing a great deal in this area but complaints have been made by the Inventors' Association of Ireland and others. I hope these have been addressed and perhaps the Minister will monitor the situation. An Irish Bill Gates could be working on an invention in a garden shed. Education and the dissemination of information is vital in this regard.

The decentralisation of the Patents Office is laudable. However, the Government must be careful in dealing with specialised staff. Were they all willing to move and was expertise lost? These considerations must be taken into account. How has the office operated since it was decentralised? I will not go on for much longer as this is not a Bill which commends itself to Second Stage contributions. I look forward to debating it with the Minister on Committee Stage.

As Deputy Stanton said, this is substantially a technical Bill. We must accept the word of the Minister that it does not comprise a substantial renovation of patent law. Essentially, it deals with a major aspect of existing law, that of compulsory licences. The remainder of the Bill seems to involve clarifications of certain aspects of the 1992 Act. Doubtless we will have an opportunity to focus on whether they have any significance beyond clarification and ensuring our law conforms with our obligations under international conventions.

Deputy Stanton justifiably argued that this is regarded as an arcane area of law. The likely number of contributors on the Bill will bear that out. Intellectual property is not the stuff that seizes people in pubs. Yet, it is extremely important in terms of the functioning of a modern economy. The major renovation of copyright under way on Committee Stage at present is evidence of that. The very fact that now a piece of software is, as the cliché has it, recognised as having the same status as a work by Shakespeare is an extraordinary transformation in our time. However, in the nature of a modern economy and the information age, the law of intellectual property, of which patent law is one aspect, is extremely important. This Bill deals with one aspect where we do not conform to best standards internationally or meet our obligations under international conventions.

The Minister sought to explain why we are not in accordance with the provisions of the TRIPs agreement. He went on to explain the question of compulsory licences. It seems quite a difficult concept, although perhaps if one had time to study it, it is not that difficult. The Minister said, "Essentially this means that where a patented product is exploited in any member country of the WTO and is then imported into another country in sufficient quantities to satisfy domestic demand there a compulsory licence cannot be granted in that other country." Presumably, as a result of this legislation, it will be possible to grant such a licence. I cannot say whether that is of great moment. Our Act goes back to 1992 and I think we were obliged to bring the provisions of TRIPs into force by the beginning of 1996. If it is a matter of great moment, one would have to ask why it has taken us from 1996 until now to do so. What precisely, other than being out of line with our international obligations, are the trade, economic or other implications of us not having done that? Is it an indicator of the extent of resources that we dedicate to the intellectual property area?

We are years behind in terms of the copyright legislation now in committee. This is partly because of the scarcity of resources dedicated to intellectual property in the past. As I said before, if we are given the responsibility of the Presidency of the European Commission, we might find that key staff have to put their shoulders to the wheel and are taken off the job. As a result, effectively little progress is made. If it is important, four years seems a long time to be out of line. If it is a minor renovation, one would have thought it would be brought forward before now. Is it arcane law, from the point of view of those concerned with updating it and the parliamentary draftsman? Is it complex law in that regard?

The Association of Patent and Trademark Agents has made a submission to the Minister. Perhaps he might be kind enough, if he considers it appropriate, to let us have a copy of that submission. I do not know its scale or content. I might be wrong, but I do not think it is a matter of great confidentiality or secrecy. It would be interesting to see the points highlighted in that submission and its import before we table Committee Stage amendments.

It is disappointing that instruments which come before this House in the area of intellectual property attract so little scrutiny, even from the learned journals which deal with law and economic and free trade. The copyright Bill has been debated by the select committee for eleven days and, so far, it has attracted one newspaper article which was largely special pleading. It has attracted no coverage, needless to say. However, one would have thought it would have attracted specific analysis, in terms of people taking polar positions or analysing its import for our economy. An article which masqueraded as an article on the copyright Bill dealt with only one aspect, which is fair enough – droit de suite. However, other than that, it has attracted no attention. I suspect, as Deputy Stanton said, this Bill will, similarly, not receive any great attention, although this is a crucially important area in terms of modern international trade.

Word was communicated to the Whips that this legislation is urgent, could be disposed of in a relatively short time and is not contentious. Why is it is so urgent now, given that four years have elapsed since we were required to import into our law the provisions of the TRIPs Agreement from 1 January 1996? Why was there a delay? I agree with Deputy Stanton that, if it is a matter of a shortage of specialist staff in the intellectual property unit, it is time to address that in the interests of our economy and the information age.

The Minister's colleague has said to us on several occasions during the progress of the copy right Bill through Committee Stage that he will return to us on the question of the capacity of the Patents Office to discharge its functions, particularly the controller, on whom significant new duties are being imposed under the copyright Bill. The relocation and decentralisation of the office to Kilkenny was bound to be, of its nature, disruptive. I understand there is no compulsion on staff who work in a given State agency to transfer to the locus of decentralisation. That must mean that some staff opt not to move and others take their place, with a consequent loss of specialisation. I think, from memory, that the controller was an exception and was obliged to transfer.

I cannot see how an office that was more equipped and suited to deal with the 1960s and 1970s can deal with the kind of issues that are pertinent in the new millennium. The copyright Bill alone imposes a wide range of additional complex duties on the controller. This is a suitable opportunity, under the general rubric of intellectual property, to ask the Minister to respond to that question about the general capacity of the office and whether he, as Minister, has any particular plans to deal with it.

I would be obliged, as I said, if the Minister felt able to tell us the substance of the submission from the Association of Patent and Trademark Agents on the Bill in advance of the tabling of Committee Stage amendments. I already have a couple of amendments I want to table.

I am intrigued by the exemptions listed in the Minister's speech. I am curious to know, purely for intellectual reasons, the rationale or basis for the exemption for inventions concerning diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans. What is the philosophy behind that? I would have thought that was as much an international issue as any other. I am interested to know why it is listed among the exemptions.

Obstacles to international trade or innovation are obstacles to the creation of wealth in this economy and, therefore, ought to be addressed. If the Bill does what the Minister says it does, which is to bring us into conformity, it deserves the support of the House. It is clear that invention is an important aspect of innovation, and that innovation is critical to our staying competitive and generating wealth in the economy. For that reason, I support the thrust of the Bill.

When I heard the Patents (Amendment) Bill was being debated by the House, I assumed it involved tax. For the past few years, the only issue raised in the House in regard to patents has been to try to stop the tax avoidance procedures and measures adopted by many people to get tax free income. It is not too long ago that chiefs of building societies could take out a patent on a software programme as a basis for getting tax free income. Many patents were taken out by Irish businesses to avoid tax and generate income. However, things have changed under various Ministers for Finance, and rightly so. Now there is a knowledge-based society, where our future wealth will be generated as a result of what people can achieve with their minds. I hope, with the help of the £560 million technology and foresight fund which was announced recently by the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, that between the knowledge of young people, in particular, and the resources which are available for research and development, many more useful products and processes will be developed in Ireland and more patents will be taken out for the benefit of the people.

From what Deputies Rabbitte and Stanton have said about the Copyright and Related Rights Bill, 1999, I do not envy them going through Committee Stage of the Patent (Amendment) Bill, 1999. Not only is it long, tedious and technical, but it does not get a whit of mention in the newspapers. I wish the Minister and the Opposition spokespersons well on Committee Stage.

This is the first substantive amendment to be effected on the basic patent law since its enactment as the Patents Act, 1992. It is therefore timely to recall the purpose of the patent system. At the heart of the system is the objective of promoting technical innovation and industrial development. The patent itself is a document, issued by Government authority – the Patents Office – to the inventor or his or her successor in title, the main legal and economic consequence of which is that for a specified number of years the invention may be exploited only by, or with the permission of the proprietor. The patent system serves not only the interests of the inventor but also the interests of the public in that patents are published and hence become public knowledge. Thus, knowledge of the existence of an invention may inspire further new inventions during the time the original invention is protected.

During this period, persons wishing to exploit the invention may obtain from the proprietor licences permitting such exploitation. There are certain circumstances in which such licences may even be granted against the will of the proprietor. These are known as compulsory licences and, as the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, stated, some of the existing legal provisions relating to them are the subject of proposed amendment in this Bill. Once the period within which an invention is protected has expired anyone may freely exploit the invention.

The main objective of the Bill is to update existing law in order that it accords with the provisions of the TRIPs Agreement. This is reason enough to welcome the Bill, and I do so now. As a small island, Ireland's economic well-being depends to a large degree on its ability to trade successfully on foreign markets, hence Ireland's membership of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and of its successor, the World Trade Organisation. The TRIPs Agreement is an agreement annexed to the agreement which established the World Trade Organisation. As a party to the latter agreement, Ireland has effectively no choice but to transpose into Irish law those provisions of the TRIPs Agreement which need transposition, especially, as I already mentioned, those relating to compulsory licences.

This is not an obligation which should cause us any difficulty. To a nation as dependent on trade as Ireland, the main objective of the TRIPs Agreement, to which the Minister referred, should strike an agreeable note. That objective is the reduction of impediments to international trade by promoting effective and adequate protection of intellectual property rights and by ensuring that measures and procedures to enforce intellectual property rights do not create barriers to legitimate trade. To achieve this, the TRIPs Agreement sets out minimum standards of protection which must be provided by each member country.

I know that Deputy Perry wishes to contribute to the debate, which will adjourn at 2.30 p.m., and therefore I will conclude.

I thank Deputy Ardagh for allowing me to contribute now.

A patent is an exclusive right conferred by the Patents Act, 1992. While it is in force, a patent confers on its proprietor the right to prevent all third parties from directly or indirectly using its subject matter. That is important. There are four classes of patent: a European patent, as granted by the European Patents Office; an Irish patent; a short-term Irish patent with a different standard; and a proposed Community patent.

With the changes within the European Union and the development of business, there is a considerable amount of money to be made and the processing of patent applications plays an important role in small companies, which find it difficult. People can be put off by the difficulties encountered. The patent agent is a person who acts as an agent for others for the purpose of applying for patents. This is an important area also. With the growth in e-commerce, an idea initiated in a small environment can be transported across the world. The role of the agent is important, as are the services he or she can provide.

Patent rights are important. These are rights conferred on the proprietor of a patent to prevent all third parties not having his or her consent, from making various direct uses of the invention whether the invention is a product, a process or the product of a process.

That the Bill implements EU directives is another important aspect of it. Patent royalty, for example, is another aspect of this complex matter, which involves so many different areas.

The Patents Office, as Deputy Rabbitte correctly stated, was established by statute for the registration of patents, designs and trade marks. The office plays a vital role and access to it is essential.

The Patents Office Journal is published by the Controller of Patents and it contains all matters which he or she is directed by law to publish in the journal and also such matters and information as appear to him to be useful or important regarding patents or applications for patents. The journal and office have a role to play in ensuring transparency.

The Patents Register is the register in which is required to be entered particulars of published patent applications, of patents in force, of assignments and transmissions of, and of licences under, patents and published applications. All of that is important information because in the case of annual registration the patent can lapse following notice of the need for an annual payment which may be involved.

On the application of the law, it is important for small companies hoping to come up with a brainwave that their ideas would not be pirated. The Patents Office is very effective. This amending legislation will bring it into the European context.

It is equally important that we look after small businesses because from small acorns the large oaks grow. There are small companies which have started off with a small idea. Such companies need proper controls and the support of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Patents Office, as a body which is not anonymous.

The Minister could develop a direct link between the Patents Office and the enterprise boards to encourage people who are frightened by the process of application, which could be made easier. Small companies work with Enterprise Ireland. This is all about enterprise development in small companies. Small companies should be entitled to the same facilities as large companies where the benefits can be applied directly to them. A small company should be able to patent a product in a professional manner. There should be expertise available through the regional offices which could explain the benefits of patenting and how it could be incorporated. Perhaps the Minister might look at that possibility.

Debate adjourned.