« PreviousContinue »
vention by evidence before the Committee, and had since maintained their claim to it by a trial at law before a special jury.
Having seen with concern the disappointment and loss of two ingenious and industrious men, he now asked himself, he must now ask the House, whether there is any consideration affecting the Bill of Marshal Conway, which eight to induce their Lordships to give a different fate to it. The principles of 1795 must be the same as the principles of 1794: And if the resemblance between the two cases were less glaring than it seemed to be, still the House would be solicitous not to fliew facilities to a person of great r ink and fortune in a point of trade (for this was no other), which facilities had been denied to a private manufacturer. . Be the result what it might, he would discharge what lie conceived to be his duty: He would state his objections to the Bill : He would not urge them with warmth or pertinacity: He would afterwards leave the matter to others, and would not recur to it in the further stages of the Bill.
His chief objection was to. the principle of the Bill, and might be well and clearly stated by a selection svem different clauses of the Bill itself. "Whereas tlu6 invention will be attended with many beneficial consequences to the Public, as thereby the expence of the whole, or the greatest part of the fuel used in those processes to which the said invention is spplicable, will be effectually saved."—" And whereas the Public at large will (unless restricted} be entitled to use and exercise the laid invention,, which will be a great prejudice to the said Henry Seymour Conway."—" Be it enacted, that no ether person except the said Henry Seymour Conway, fliall at any time during the term of twenty years, either directly or indirectly, use, or put in practice, the said, invention cr any part of the same." These words give a true and faithful description of all Bills for prolonging monopolies, and of tjieir nature and tendency. Their object is, and can only be in a greater or less degree, to take from the Public the enjoyment of an invention which is alleged to be useful to the PVolic. The invention is locked up; the advanced price consines the application of it; but it is.locked up only against this count iy—in the mean time it is published, and lest at liberty to operate against us in every rival nation.
It might be said that the same reasoning would extend against every original patent, and to a certain degree this was true. But the Act of the 21ft James I. which legalized patents for inventions, had limited them to fourteen ye.irs as a, sufficient sacrifice in favour of ingenuity. Besides, the original
D d 2 patents patents are soun :ed on a sort of compact between the Public an i rhe o.i?'mal inventor: The former obtains a full poiTcflioa of the secret, which couK! not in many cases be otherwise obtained with any certainty, and stipulates in return to give th'- monopoly fer the period prescribed by the statute. Perhaps, even in these cases, it would be better for the community if some ot'ier nude of Tccompence could be given.
It was true that in the last twenty years, seven or eight patents had been prolonged by Act of Parliament. I^ord Auckland stated them, and argued that they were all distinguishable from the present case: If, however, they had gone the full length of Marsha] Convvay's claim, he should still insist that they were proofs of too much facility in Parliament, and that the decision of 1794 was the decision proper to be abided by. The dilemma in all the cases is this: If the invention is good, it will be amply compensated by the monopoly of fourteen years, and therefore ought not to be extended; if it is not good, it ought not to have an extraordinary encouragement. The dilemma is still stronger in another shape : If the invention is not good, it is an imposition on the Public to give a Parliamentary sanction to it; if it is good, it is already the vest-d and eventual property of the Public at the end of the first fourteen ye.;rs, and it is an injury and detriment to the Public to resume it.
Sir Richard Arkwright had tried in vain during two years (1782 and 1783), to obtain a short prolongation of the patents for his very va'uab'e inventions. It was successfully refilled by several petitions on the ground that " such a Bill would give stability to a monopoly prejudicial to the maim, facturts and commerce of rhe c\>un'iv, by leaving to all other kingdoms the ur,!:ir.i;ed use of machine?, which would in England alone be thereby confined to the arbitrary disposal of one man onlv."
It remained on!-/ to advert to th; particular Bill before the House. It stated no spec tic "round or claim of favour: A specific ground had b<c stated by Messrs. Kendrew and Porthouse, but was not fullered to be gone into. It came forwards within ci;.;ht mon'hs of the expiration of the patent; and when, if the invention is so useful as it is alleged to be, many p-vf'-ha rmv have made preparations at a great experxe to avail themselves of if. The Bill is liable to a peculiar oi jection on the part of Scotland: The patent for that country was not passed till five ye-ars aft r the Englisti patent: Irs legality then is at least doubtful; and yet the Bill iu question extends to Scotland the fame as to England.
He would once more ask, on what ground of consistency or decency could their Lordstiips distinguish this cafe from, the cafe of Kendrew and Porthoufe? Every point of difference between the two Bills was in favour of the manufacturers, and decidedly against the Field Marshal. Seven years only of Kendrew's patent were elapsed •, fourteen years of Marshal Conway's : The former asked only ten years additional term; the latter asked twenty years.
It was not his wisti to lay too serious a stress on a question so limited in its immediate importance and bearings: It had, however, been repeatedly said in the late debates, it had been forcibly and justly said, that the salvation of this country, and eventually of the whole social system in Europe, depends on the respect of the people for Parliament. He thanked Cod, thac amidst the trials and calamities of the times, the two Houses possess, and in his conscience he thought that they deserved the full and cordial confidence of their country. It was his wish that the same sentiment should remain unimpaired; he had no other object.
Lord Harrowby declared, on the part os the Honourable and respectable Person interested in the Bill, that he was far from desiring that any personal considerations for him should in the smallest degree influence: their Lordships decisions, respecting either -the principle or clauses cf the Bill. That Hon. Gentleman wished the merits of his application ta the Legislature, in this instance, to be fairly and impartially discussed, and was prepared cheerfully to submit to its decision, confident that it would not reject his application upon slight and trivial grounds. Lord Harrowby having done Marshal Conway this justice, said, he must differ from the Noble Lord who had assigned his reasons for objecting to the Bill. He regarded the Bill in a very different view, and did riot admit that all the Noble Lord's reasons could fairly be urged a4 objections. Let their Lordships candidly consider the nature of the cafe; an invention is discovered, which all who have tried it, agree to be a most valuable one, because in the highest degree useful to various important processes of manufacture; from the nature of the invention, its becoming a matter of general adoption was neither probable nor practicable. It necessarily requires time before it can be brought into operation, and it is attended with considerable espence in the outset; two circumstances that of themselves throw a difficulty in its way. Convinced of its utility, the inventor spares uo expence respecting it, and just on the expiration of hii patent, finds himself some thousands out ot" pocket. That bving the state of the fact, would any on; of their Lordships fay, that the present application for a prolongation of the palent was unreasonable, and that the House's concurring with the House of Commons in granting it, was to be considered in any other light than as a matter of justice? The object of grunting a patent for a new invention, was twofold, to remunerate the inventor for his ingenuity, and to obtain the knowledge of the invention for the use and advantage of the Public. The first being the ground of application, it was generally presumed that by the time the patent expired, the inventor would have derived art-adequate reward. In the present case, as he had stated to their Lordships, the inventor had not only failed in obtaining a reward, but not having been reimbursed his expences, would be a considerable loser, if the Bill, did not pass. His Lordllrp said, it somewhat surprised him to hear the Noble Lord mention what had passed in the case of the application for a prolongation of a patent last session, which hail been rejected. He owned lie had not expected to 'hear that urged as a ground of objection on the present occasion, because the circumstances of the two cafes were by no means • analogous, but widely dilferent. The patent respecting which :t Bill had been brought before their Lordships last year, had fcvtn years unexpired, and various petitions were presented against it; whereas there was no petition presented against the present Bill, but there were many recommendations of the merit and utility of the invention. His Lordstiip added other reasons in its support.
Tie Lord Chancellor lest the woolsack, and began a very in-' tclligeut and informing speech on the subject, with observing that it was always an unpleasant thing, where business, which had been expected to come on earlier in the day, was delayed tp a later hour * than it had been imagined it would he protracted to, to rife and enter into reasons against a Bill of a sort pencrally considered as a matter to be looked at favourably with respect to the party irteiclrcd. His duty, however, obliged him to st.uc what weighed i:i 1.1s mind, as insuperable reasons against the present Bid, and indeed as (hong grounds of objection ac; !ii il all extension ot patent rights i and those reaT ions he v. ou!d stale on ir.a present occasion r: .shortly as possible. Towards tl.c end of the v^ign of lilliaheth, and in the commeneoment of the reign of James the i'*irst, great num-r hers of patents were granted by the Crown, till the abuse be* came so notciious that it prpvoked an inquiry in the House
of Commons. In the course of the investigation there, it was found that so many patents had passed the Great Seal, and that the power of granting them had been so much abused, that one Member stood up in his place, and gravely aiked to fee the patent for making bread. When the Member was told, that after due search, the patent for making bread could not be found, he expressed his surprise how it could possibly happen, when the art of making almost every thing was secured to some individual or other by patent, that of making bread could possibly have escaped. The consequence of the inquiry was, that a Bill was immediately brought in to t;ike away from the Crown the right of granting patents, but which reserved to the Legislature the right of granting patents for fourteen years, for such new discoveries and inventions as were real* and promised to prove useful; but the condition of every grant of a patent under the Bill was, the inventor was to givic in a specification of the nature and principles of his invention, on oath. That Bil! passed the Legillature, and was the Act of James the First, under the authority of which the present application was made. Having Hated this history of the origin of the statute, his Lordship proceeded to notice the instances of patents prolonged within the last five-and-twenty years; and first he mentioned that of Messrs. Watt and Boulton,. for the construction of a new steam engine, in 1769. To understand the grounds on which this prolongation of a patent obtained, it was necessary that their Lordlhips should be apprized of the circumstances which led to it—they were these: Mr. Watt, the original inventor of the steam engine, was a man of talents and of great mathematical science; but, as many men of superior genius were, he was poor. He had not therefore the money in his power, that was necessary to -carry his invention into execution. He looked about, therefore, for persons of sufficient mcars to assist him, and connected himself with a man, extremely nlaufiblc, wlio pretended to have great interest with the coal-owners, and to poiilss a large capital; but in the end, he found he had been perfectly deluded by that person, as he had neither the fortune nor the interest that he had persuaded Mr. Watt to believe he had. The man was at last obliged to decamp, and the whole time of the patent had been wasted and thrown away. Mr. Watt then applied for a prolongation of his patent in his own name and that of Mr. Boulton, a gentleman well known to th?:r Lordships, and indeed to most men, and who had a capital and the necessary connexions to enable him to carry Mr Watt's invention into immediate execution. On full pioof of these fact?, the patent was renewed; but it would have been far better for the Public to have