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measure wholly political in its general character, and epitomizing, as it were, the great struggle between ancient prerogative on the one hand, and nascent liberty on the other, which characterized the period. Apart altogether from the comparative newness of the subject, that was no season for drawing nice distinctions about the rights of a particular class—the task of that day was to secure the rights of the whole.
But now that all danger from "prerogative monopolies" has long ceased, now that inventors have become a numerous body, ranking among the greatest benefactors of the commonwealth, it is high time that it should cease to be a reproach to England that her patent laws are incomparably the worst in Europe—the most oppressive to the inventor—the least useful to the State. Such,
beyond all doubt, is the case at present. Defects of The prime defects of our present system of letters our Letters Patent. patent are, first, their insecurity, and next, their extreme 1. Insecn- costliness. Strange as it must seem to a mind not rity. entirely enwrapped in legal subtleties, the patent right,
accorded by a solemn instrument under the Great Seal, Evidence of is actually held to be open to infringement; that is, to Mr. Rotch
be no right at all, until after it shall have been confirmed Patents'
by the verdict of a court of law. So that, for a first Committee, (1829) p.’infringement, damages, nominal and not real, are inva107, et seq. riably given : and thus, to the expense of a patent-in 2. Costli the first instance never less than three hundred and
fifty pounds, if for the whole kingdom--there is added a
large amount in law costs (not allowed upon the taxing), Poole,
besides a loss of time and labour wholly incalculable. It may be worth while to cite one out of the many instances
which continually occur. Crossley v. Mr. Samuel Clegg, the first inventor of the wellBeverley: known and very ingenious gas-meter, assigned all his Moody & M. vol. i.
interest under his patent for that and other apparatus to Mr. Crossley, who, in Hilary term, 1829, brought an
action in the King's Bench against an infringer on the gas-meter included in this patent, and obtained a verdict. But, on the costs being taxed, he remained four hundred pounds out of pocket, besides the expenses of previous proceedings in Chancery. And he had then to institute proceedings de novo, in order either to repress infringements or recover damages, that trial being merely a confirmation of his patent by the Court of King's Bench. Mr. John Farey, to whom by far the most important part of the information on this subject contained in the Commons' evidence of 1829 is due, and who was the Evidence, agent of Mr. Crossley in the trial above mentioned, on Patents. stated to the Committee that he had known cases of this kind which cost more than £1,500, and required “a series of trials or proceedings, so as to amount to thousands before any decision was obtained.” And this is the boon which is graciously accorded to an inventor pour encourager les autres.
But the insecurity of patents does not arise from this radical defect alone, (which, it is to be observed, is wholly untouched by the recent “Patent Law Amend- Lord ment Act” of 1835,) but also from other defects scarcely Act, 5 & 6 less serious. If, for example, the sealing of the patent w. iv. be delayed, from whatever cause--whether from the SSS
See Appenillness of the Chancellor, or his absence from business, or dix B. the Attorney General's engagements;” or by the neces- Evid. of sity of sending an express after the Lord Privy Seal; or 1829, p.47. . by the payment of “one hundred guineas" to somebody or other for the purpose of procuring the royal signature out of due course whether the delay arise from any or all of these circumstances, the petitioner is exposed to the entire loss of his property. For, if one of the workmen employed in the course of his necessary experiments should disclose his secret, and get some one to bring the invention into use, before all the multifarious forms are gotten through and completed, this will vitiate the
patent, because it dates, not from the filing of the petition, as would be just, but from the day of sealing. And even if the fraudulency of such use, and the petitioner's ignorance of it, can be clearly proved, his only chance of remedy consists in an expensive process before the judicial committee of the Privy Council. And even
this remedy did not exist until 1835. Evid. of From the delay and danger consequent on these idle Patent Committee,
and expensive forms—precluding inventors from making p. 25-31.
proper and careful experiments—and from the difference of the terms allowed for specification, consequent on having three several patents for the united kingdom, arise two opposite evils of no small magnitude: the one, that an honest patentee, on proceeding to make experiments (after obtaining his sealed patent), in order to specify, may discover that he has given an insufficient title, thereby claiming less than his right; the other, that a dishonest patentee may very easily steal a valuable invention already specified, and put it into his own patent not yet specified, but bearing a prior date, thereby obtaining the profits of that to which he has no title.
But another evil, greater perhaps than all those which have yet been mentioned, remains behind. While our entire system of patents seems expressly calculated to obstruct and complicate the fair claims of inventors, and to multiply in every direction the causes of expensive and interminable litigation, the tribunals before which this litigation and these conflicting claims are brought are of all tribunals among the least competent, and the least prepared, to decide causes of such a nature.
For, in the first instance, the granting petitions for patents, and the decision between conflicting petitionsinvolving the whole merits of complex mechanical and chemical inventions—are left to the judgment of the Attorney-General for the time being, an officer whose adequate acquaintance with such subjects will most cer
tainly be found the exception and not the rule; in the second place, the trial of the conflicting claims of inventors, frequently involving scientific questions more recondite and complicated still, is left to the decision of a learned judge, and of twelve jurymen brought together without selection; and in the third place, fitly to crown the whole, the court of last resort for such claims in general, whether to alter a specification or prolong a term, is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
deal not here with the question of remedy, to that we come presently, but content myself with remarking that these are but a few of the evils and deficiencies of our present patent laws, which remain to this day, although nearly ten years have passed since a Committee of the House of Commons stated to the House that, on account of the intricacy and importance of the subject, and the then late period of the session,* they were “only prepared to report the Minutes of the Evidence taken before them," and "earnestly recommend to the House that the enquiry may be resumed early in the next session.” The enquiry, however, was not resumed, and no report has ever been made upon the important evidence.
Years have passed on; the Quarterly Review has Quart. Rev. joined in denouncing “the unjust and oppressive vols xliii. tribute which the patent law exacts from inventors;' numerous petitions and remonstrances have been
presented from chambers of commerce, from inventors, from manufacturers; not less than six several bills have been introduced into parliament; and of these only one See Ap; -the least comprehensive of all-has been passed into a
pendix B. law, and that with the loss of some of its best provisions. And the law is still disfigured by its old features
ve changed in this respect, as
• It was the 12th of June. Things in many others, since that period.
excessive costliness, complicated and useless obstructive forms, heavy stamp duties, triple proceedings and triple fees for one United Kingdom, great difficulty of safe transfer, very considerable legal insecurity (although this has been greatly reduced-thanks to Lord Brougham's Act), and radically INCOMPETENT TRIBUNALS.
In passing to the suggestion of REMEDY for the various evils which have been detailed, and following the
same order, I observe, with respect to the copyright of 1. Books. Books, that although the chief interest of the Plastic
Arts in this branch of the subject is indirect, as arising out of their literature, yet the Painter and the Engraver have another interest which is direct, and which daily increases in importance. I mean that arising out of illustrated books. As there is no means more widely efficacious than this for diffusing a knowledge and love of Art, so is there none to which a cheap, secure, and sufficient copyright is of more vital importance.
But the subject of the copyright of books is already in such able and zealous hands, that I cannot do better
than recite the provisions of the Bill again introduced fourd's Bilj. by Mr. Serjeant Talfourd, and supported by Sir Robert
Inglis, and by many other distinguished men of all parties, during the last session, and read a second time by a considerable majority, although subsequently withdrawn by the learned serjeant (under pledge to renew it at the commencement of next session), for the sake of a careful revision of its details.
By this Bill it is proposed to enact that copyright in any book hereafter to be published shall endure to the author and his assigns for his life, and for the further term of sixty years, commencing at his death; that copyright, which at the passing of the Act shall be subsisting either in the author, in his personal representatives, or in his assigns, for consideration of natural