§ 3.17 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD DRUMALBYN) rose to move, That the Draft Patents (Fees Amendment) Order 1970, laid before the House on October 29 last, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Order is to raise the maximum level of fees that may be charged for the grant and maintenance of patents. It has long been the policy of successive Administrations that the fee-earning branches of the Patent Office (patent, trade marks and designs) should aim at breaking even financially. That means that the charges to applicants and patentees should meet the cost of the system. Patents account for some 85 per cent. of the income from fees. In recent years, in spite of periodical increases in fees, the account has always been in deficit.
§ Present patent fees are governed by an Order in Council, which I myself moved in another place in 1961, laying down the maxima which may be charged on the main revenue producing fees. These maxima can only be changed by means of an Affirmative Resolution of each House of Parliament. Within these maxima the actual fees are prescribed from time to time by Rules made by the Department of Trade and Industry in Orders subject to Negative Resolution. Patent fees were last increased in December, 1969, to the maxima permitted by the Order in Council of 1961. Latest estimates suggest that notwithstanding these increases the fee-earning branches will be no more than in balance in 1970. Unless fees are raised there will be a total deficit of over £2 million for the four-year period, 1969–72. Consideration has therefore to be given to a further increase in patent fees. But such an increase cannot be made until the maxima permitted by the 1961 Order are raised. It is to increase those maxima that this Order is required.
§ I would emphasise that these are maxima; that is, they govern the discretion given to the Department of Trade and Industry as to the actual fees, subject to Parliamentary procedure. I should also add that there is no intention of increasing the fee in respect of an application for a 1245 patent, which has been unchanged for many years. This is kept at £1 to ensure that the small inventor is able, very cheaply, to stake a claim to being the first inventor and in the following period of one year, before he is obliged to pay further fees, to try to arouse industrial interest and assess the potential of his invention. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Draft Patents (Fees Amendment) Order 1970, laid before the House on October 29 last, be approved.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ On Ouestion, Motion agreed to.