SECTION 4 (Resumed).

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 3, between lines 52 and 53, to insert the following paragraph:

" (l) to assist in promoting the development and improvement of industrial and commercial design.”

The Committee will recall that the last day, at the Minister's suggestion, we made an amendment to subsection (3) (c). I am sure if a record is kept by the secretary of the Committee he will confirm that this is so—that is, in lines 22 and 23, that that paragraph of subsection (3) was amended last day.

How was it amended? I was not present.

We did it by agreement.

I believe we had gone beyond lines 9 and 10 of this section, but we may not have got to amendment No. 6. That was the reason for the confusion in my mind. I realised we had got as far as line 23.

We did this simultaneously with amendment No. 2.

We are now at lines 52 and 53. We wish to insert a sub-paragraph:

to assist in promoting the development and improvement of industrial and commercial design.

I may have said on one of the earlier amendments—and this may be the cause of my belief that we had discussed it—that this country has traditionally, unfortunately, been very much behind the times in this matter of design until the foundation some 15 years ago or so of the Kilkenny Design Workshops. The first important step is to rectify our deficiencies in this respect. The Kilkenny Design Workshops within the limits in which they work have contributed significantly to the improvement of industrial and commercial design in this country. But notwithstanding their success we still lag behind most of our neighbours in this respect. The marketability of many of our products is hindered by the fact that our industrial and commercial designs are not up to modern standards as yet even though they have improved. Since these matters arise to a great extent out of scientific and technological research and are directly related thereto, these are matters which the board should have under subsection (3) of this section as one of their subsidiary objects, not necessarily one of their main objects. The assistance of the improvement of that kind of design is very necessary and would benefit the country immensely and bring us closer to our competitors in other countries in this respect.

One is too well aware of the poor quality of much Irish design. The best quality design in this country is often in traditional articles from away far back and a lot of the more modern products that have not the traditional background of some of those articles are deficient in this respect and their marketability is prejudiced as a result. For that reason I ask that this paragraph be added as stating one of the many subsidiary objectives of the board. It is as important as some of the eight or ten amendments which have gone ahead of this.

Córas Tráchtála are statutorily charged with the promotion of further industrial design. It is almost the exact function that Deputy O'Malley proposes be also given to the NBST. Given that Córas Tráchtála are in no way subsidiary in any other respect to the NBST and do not have to relate to the NBST—they are two bodies of equal status—nevertheless Córas Tráchtála and the NBST operate in the same field. This might create a situation where there would be duplication of management objective.

The Kilkenny Design Workshops operate under the general direction of Córas Tráchtála, who are the body statutorily charged with the promotion of industrial and commercial design. I take Deputy O'Malley's point that developments in technology have an implication for design, and developments in design have an implication for technology. To go as far as he does and give this board, who are exclusively a board concerned with science and technology, responsibility—and a very broad one—in promotion of commercial design would be to go too far. However, some provision, statutory or otherwise, should be made to ensure that the board takes cognisance of industrial design and requirements in their own activities.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary say who funds the Kilkenny Design Workshops at the moment? Do Córas Tráchtála fund them exclusively or is there a private fund as well?

I have not official advice on this point but, speaking from my own knowledge, Kilkenny Design Workshops are funded by the Department of Industry and Commerce but they do contract work for private firms who pay for that.

Is it that they will not be an institution as section 6 (2) envisages institutions which will be funded from the budget?

That would be the main interpretation of the definition of " institution " and would flow from the consequences of Deputy O'Malley's amendment if accepted. The danger is that if one did accept the amendment as it stands, by implication the definition of section 1 would be widened and it would be open to Kilkenny Design Workshops to look for money from the NBST, which, is not envisaged at all. That is why, if we are going to accept the general thrust of Deputy O'Malley's argument, we should draft it somewhat differently and give the board responsibility for promotion.

Will there be any onus on the board to make designations of the institutions that will be funded? In other words will there be a list of institutions which will be funded out of the budget made available to this national board?

There is not any provision for the drawing up of a list in the Bill. The governing factor here will be the interpretation by the board of the definition of " institution " in the light of the functions which the board are being given. I would point out that in general the board will be concerned with administration of the funds which are going to these bodies. They will be concerned with bringing in a Science Budget and presenting information about how the money is being spent. But in most cases the money going to individual institutions will be going from the Departments concerned, not from the Board, and to that extent the drawing up of a list will not be as necessary as it might otherwise be. This is somewhat distant from Deputy O'Malley's amendment, which would unduly restrict the board in their operation.

The relevance of the amendment is that if Kilkenny Design Workshops were designated as an institution the funds would be coming from the Board rather than from Córas Tráchtála.

No. The basic principle of the Bill is that, while there is provision under section 4 (1) (d) whereby the Board may give grants, the primary means whereby funds will be provided will be in the normal way directly through normal channels and not by the Board and in that case the funding of Kilkenny Design Workshops will remain as it is.

It might be got over by saying that Kilkenny Design Workshops might be taken in the context of section 5. A commentary on the various allocations might include a commentary on Kilkenny. I can see the full force of what the Deputy has to say. I take it he also has in mind work being carried out across the way in the National College of Art and Design on marketing and design. While obviously that does not come within the scope of the Bill it would be against the spirit of what we want if there was not some co-ordination between it and Kilkenny and the work of this board.

There is some work going on in that field already.

I could not agree more with the general point the Deputy is making in regard to industrial projects.

Deputy Halligan is right in saying there is an area there. Where does research stop? Where does science stop? Fifty years ago, science simply meant the physical sciences. Now I think Deputy Halligan would claim economics is as fully a science as any other science.

There are some terrible chancers practising.

It is very closely allied to——

Legal science.

The Deputy left himself open to that.

Flippancy apart, there is a difficulty here about what is science. Deputy O'Malley's amendment is perfectly within the scope or ambit of the Bill. Obviously design is a factor just as the economics of the application of the results of technology and research is important. If I may take one area I happen to know a little about, which is very much in the news at the moment, there are completely new technologies in the printing industry. There you have a combination of all these three factors. Not only is there the basic scientific question in applying the results of fundamental research in certain fields but there is also the engineering research and the purely technological research.

Equally important and absolutely critical for its practical application to society, something which would interest the Government and should interest us, is the economics of it. Finally, a large question of design is involved in the matter, varying from area to area. It is very difficult precisely to define the ambit of science and technology in this Bill. That makes all the stronger the case for including explicitly, as Deputy O'Malley suggests, a provision to cover the promotion of design. Basically there is an economic basis in this from our point of view apart from research and technology and, if there is, then there is basically a selling implication, a large question of either selling at home or abroad resulting from that technology. That sale will very largely depend on design and attractability. This factor which Deputy O'Malley has adverted to in his amendment is very substantial.

Perhaps I could suggest something which would meet Deputy O'Malley's point. My objection to the proposal as he has put it forward is that it gives the Board a prime function, so to speak, in the area of design and therefore transgresses into an area where another body has a prime function. Perhaps we could redraft this amendment slightly to meet the point by stating that the Board shall promote the application of science and technology to the development and improvement of industrial and commercial design. This maintains science and technology as the primary function of the Board while allowing it to assist in design.

I agree to that.

That is an excellent format. It meets the point and it keeps more strictly to the science and technology aspects of the Bill.

Amendment amended by leave, by the deletion of " to assist in promoting " and by the substitution of " to promote the application of science and technology to ".

I understand that amendment No. 6 as amended, now reads as follows:

" In page 3, between lines 52 and 53 to insert the following paragraph:

‘ (l) to promote the application of science and technology to the development and improvement of industrial and commercial design ’.”

Amendment as amended agreed to.

Many of these institutions are very chippy and selfish and anxious not to let anybody else poke into their affairs.

We will be coming to that. Even the teachers' organisations are like that.

Not to my knowledge.

Could I bring the Committee back to amendment No. 7?

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 3, between lines 52 and 53, to insert the following paragraph:

" (m) to advise and assist in the registration of patents ”

I am aware of the existence of paragraph (j) in this subsection which is somewhat akin to this. Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us it covers the same point. It does, if you like, in general terms but there is a specific difficulty in this country to which I adverted on Second Stage and which I think the Minister also dealt with in his reply in regard to the registration of patents. This is a matter which comes under the aegis of the Department of Industry and Commerce. The patents Office is a branch of the Department rather than a legal office in the sense of coming under the Courts or the Department of Justice. There are considerable delays in the registration of patents. As reported in volume 293 of the Official Report of 4th November, 1976, I discussed the delays in the Patents Office and said it came under the Minister's jurisdiction. As reported at column 1140 I said:

I would ask him to use his position in that regard to try to improve the situation there in order that the whole development of science and technology in the future might be improved.

Before that I had discussed the question of the delays. The Minister said he had already begun to take some steps to overcome the difficulties in that office.

Column 1186.

The Minister said:

I agree with the Deputy's observations; but in saying that I am not in any way criticising the people who have worked hard there. The system is one that has built up during a long period but it has performed too slowly. I am not apportioning the blame for this to individuals but it is a fair description of the situation. However. I am glad to be able to tell the Deputy that a reform is in hand which, it is hoped, will overcome the weaknesses that he identifies correctly—the weakness of delay and consequently of discouragement. We are well advanced in having the situation put right.

Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would be able to tell us what is the up-to-date position. I understand that delays in some cases, not all, extend for as long as five years from the time of application. The result has been that inventions, technological advances that might be described as inventions, which would qualify for patents and which would need patents for their protection are in fact being registered in England and elsewhere rather than here because of the effective delays here. The result is that the encouragement to scientists and technologists generally who want to work as we would like to see them work in regard to new advances in technology is not at all as good as it should be because there is the danger that if word or details of their invention gets out other people may be free for several years to use that invention and the inventor gets no reward either material or otherwise, for what he has done.

There is also a problem that came to my notice since the Second Stage debate in November, that even where there is registration there are still weaknesses in our patents system and that the patent holder needs protection against exploitation, from somebody else without his consent, of the invention that has been patented. It would do a great deal for the advance of technology, particularly of our native technology, if this board could intervene to assist people in this very technical field and could bring about much more speedily than at present registration of patents and could more effectively protect the inventions that are made from time to time in this country. In particular it would, by doing that, try to ensure that inventions of this kind—there is a very topical example—could be exploited in this country rather than abroad. The topical example which I have been raising in the House over the last nine months or so concerns the Erne Tool and Die Company in Belturbet, County Cavan. They have produced a most valuable invention in the technological sphere and now find themselves, for reasons we need not go into, in the tragic position, not from their point of view but from the national viewpoint, that they are being forced against their will to send their patent abroad. This splendid invention which has attracted worldwide attention is now likely to be exploited in Britain, for the benefit of the British people rather than in County Cavan or elsewhere in the Republic. One hopes that a board of this kind would have as one of their objectives the assistance of a firm in that situation both in regard to registration and protection of patents after registration and, as is provided to some extent at least in paragraph (a) of this subsection the ensuring of the development and exploitation of the invention in Ireland for the benefit of not only of the inventor but also of the people generally and the economy as a whole. For that reason I should like the board to be given as one of their subsidiary objectives the power to advise and assist people in trying to register and protect their inventions in this way. It would be beneficial to the advancement of technology if the board had that power. This is a very difficult, technical and slow-moving business and the average inventor does not know anything about the very tricky laws of patents. It would be generally to the advancement of technology here if the Board were in a position to give advice and assistance.

I should like to support what Deputy O'Malley has said. He has raised a very important matter here, one which all of us, including myself, might have overlooked. We are indebted to the Deputy for raising it. It does not seem at first sight immediately relevant but, on reflection, for the reasons he has given, it is relevant. I should like to focus on two of these reasons in a particular way.

First, there is the question of the protection of the patent both from the point of view of the individual or group entitled to the rights arising out of their ingenuity. This is more than mere justice; it is a matter of some importance for our own citizens, helping and supporting them to secure their rights, rights that of their nature are very open to be exploited by external and larger interests. That is the point Deputy O'Malley has been making. Further, from the national point of view and the economic viewpoint of the community there is the question of both prestige and the economic advantage arising from such patents and the exploitation of that for the benefit of our own people. For this in the modern situation we require activity going beyond our own borders. In most cases it will surely mean negotiations with bodies outside this country or asserting rights through agencies outside this country. No small group or an individual can hope to do this because of lack of facilities, lack of communication and finance. Therefore, on the first leg of the point Deputy O'Malley has made in regard to assisting in registration of patents, there seems to be a very strong case for including something of this nature here.

When a patent is effectively registered and the title to it is secured whether with or without the assistance of the Board or the State—it will normally be the State—there is the question of its application and development for the benefit of the community. Before leaving the first point I should like to say that inevitably if a substantial question of this nature arises there will be an application to the State for support or assistance and obviously this body is the one that is ready-made to provide it. On the question of exploitation and provision of funds, again the Board appear to have a function. In fact, I should like to see Deputy O'Malley's amendment somewhat expanded so that the idea would be captured within the provisions of budget-making powers and the provision of funds by the Board. In the Committee of Public Accounts not very long ago we had a rather interesting example of this where a board of this nature would have been of great assistance to the State and would have been functioning within the structure of this Bill, it was this.

In the Department of Defence, through the interest of Professor Timoney, there was the development of armoured vehicles which not only were required here but, if they had been developed here, that would have meant the investment of the required money in Ireland instead of abroad. It was a substantial matter and there was also the possibility of exploitation elsewhere. This was sponsored by the Department of Defence who, quite rightly, did everything possible to promote it. In the ordinary mechanics of today, the Comptroller and Auditor General raised some points and it was necessary for the committee of Public Accounts to go into this matter in a little detail which strictly speaking, was not their business because they could only report within their own ambit. Finally, it was thought desirable to bring Dáil Members to see these vehicles. I do not think there is any Deputy who had the slightest doubt about the desirability and propriety of what was done in this case, but the machinery available resulted in a great loss of time, a certain amount of internal friction and may have been more of an obstruction than a help in securing this very valuable work which could have been quickly developed and exploited both for our national prestige and our economic advantage. These two points are merely glosses on what Deputy O'Malley said.

Are they not being built in Belgium at the moment?

Yes, I am afraid they are. I do not want to go into the merits of this but it is a sad point. I can understand the difficulties facing the Government and the Minister for Finance in this matter. There should be a central body here on whose advice the Government could rely. Then we would not have to set up an ad hoc body to look into each case.

Let us take the case I mentioned—the Department of Defence. I visited that Department and I can report that they do their work very efficiently. If the Minister for Defence wants money, he must go to the Department of Finance. They must watch the national purse and, as was proved in this case, the Comptroller and Auditor General is very strict. Finance must be satisfied and then the matter must be decided by the Government. All the Ministers involved and heads of Department may have doubts but if these doubts were obviated the delays would be obviated and the matter would be put through quickly. Therefore, what is needed is a central body to which every Minister and the Government can come and be sure that the advice being given is responsible and complete.

Was there a patents problem in this case?

I am trying to fill in the general background because it is very important for the proper functioning of this Bill. If we had this central body, they could advise the Ministers, the Government and the heads of Departments. The Dáil would be confident that not only was the recommendation of the central body reliable but they would know that that body were in a position to cover the whole area and make a complete report. This would make it easier for heads of Departments to come to decisions and advise their Ministers. There is a broader aspect involved here. Expenditure and ministerial action are frequently required which would be greatly expedited by the explicit inclusion of such a body.

It is now 12.45 p.m., the time we proposed to adjourn. Deputy Taylor has been trying to speak for some time. With the agreement of the committee, Deputy Taylor and the Parliamentary Secretary may speak briefly.

I agree with the inclusion of this amendment if we are not infringing on any other areas more proper to deal with the registration of patents. I know of several inventors who have successfully registered their patents in England and marketed their products here very rapidly and in this way have overcome that difficulty. Therefore, it would be to our advantage if we could expedite the registration of their products here.

There are a number of problems here. I do not think most of the material put forward by Deputy Taylor is relevant since there is not a patent problem involved. There were problems in relation to the development of the invention but that is an entirely different matter. The function of the Patents Office is essentially a legal one. It is not merely doing research into the invention to decide if it is good or bad, marketable or not; it is simply a question of comparing one patent application for a particular invention with previous patents to see if there is genuine " novelty "—I think is the term used in the patents legislation. It is almost a mechanical legal procedure and not relevant to the type of research that will be done by the National Board for Science and Technology.

I would further point out that with the onset of the European Patent Convention, to which Ireland has adhered, the trend in future will be to get a patent to cover not only the Irish market, but also the markets of the Nine. In other words, an inventor will go for a European patent which can be granted at one stroke and give him cover in the whole Community. I do not think the NBST will be called on to any great extent to advise the European Patents Office, wherever it is situated—I think it is Strasbourg.

In view of subsection (3) (j), I do not think the amendment amounts to much. I do not consider it would do any harm if it was included but there would be the problem that the Patents Office might feel that this was in some way a slight on them. The danger of that happening might be justified if one thought that by doing this one would achieve something, but the likelihood of the Patents Office having to go to the NBST for advice when they can go direct to the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards——

I want to make a brief observation. I do not think a final decision should be made at this meeting. We should postpone consideration of this matter until the next meeting. The last point is to set a tentative date for the next meeting.

Tuesday, 29th March, on the assumption that we have the transcript of the last day and today available.

That should give a reasonable time to have that.

Would it be possible at that meeting to have our amendments that could not be dealt with today because we had insufficient time mentioned at this stage? We would have a fortnight's interlude.

I understand they would be recommitted on Report Stage.

They can be reintroduced. The Opposition can bring in further amendments on Report Stage. Would it not be better to deal with them in Committee and if that is not satisfactory come back again on Report Stage?

There are some points on that I should like to discuss.

Taking the Minister's amendments, we had got past the point of discussing one of them in Committee. Would you now have notice of others for which there is adequate time to discuss in sequence in Committee? Would it be more appropriate to discuss them in sequence in Committee?

I will take from amendment No. 7a onwards.

The Committee adjourned at 12.52 p.m. until 3.45 p.m. on Tuesday, 29th March, 1977.