New Zealand Politicians Want To Explicitly Outlaw Software Patents

from the didn't-see-that-coming dept

As we wait for the Bilski ruling in the US (which my gut feeling tells me will have the Supreme Court totally punt on the issue of software patents), it seems like politicians down in New Zealand have figured out that software patents are a real problem. As a whole bunch of you sent in, a bill is moving through the process for patent reform that explicitly says software should not be patentable:

We recommend amending clause 15 to include computer programs among inventions that may not be patented. We received many submissions concerning the patentability of of computer programs. Under the Patents Act 1953 computer programs can be patented in New Zealand […] Open source, or free, software has grown in popularity since the 1980s. Protecting software by patenting it is inconsistent with the open source model and its proponents oppose it. A number of submitters argue that there is no “inventive step” in software development, as “new” software inevitably builds on existing software. They felt that computer software should be exluded from patent protection as software patents can stifle innovation and competition, and can be granted for trivial or existing techniques. In general we accept this position.

This is a welcome development, certainly. Even more impressive is the general realization (often missed by politicians) that too much patenting is a bad thing and can seriously stifle innovation:

[the old act] has a low threshold for patentability compared with most other countries. This low threshold can lead to broader patent rights being granted in New Zealand than in other countries, which can disadvantage New Zealand businesses and consumers[…] This can discourage innovation and inhibit growth in productivity and exports.

Now if only New Zealand would recognize similar problems with copyright law as well…

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Comments on “New Zealand Politicians Want To Explicitly Outlaw Software Patents”

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Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Software based sheep rearing patent rendered useless

only in the south or in the mountains. near the coast you just get rain. Christchurch gets maybe one or two snowfalls a year, and you’re lucky if it settles and sticks around for more than a day in the shade. Auckland is borderline tropical, at least in summer, and gets no snow. the mountains, on the other hand, get Lots, every year. we have plenty of ski fields 😀

Tony says:

Re: Software based sheep rearing patent rendered useless

Leaves plenty of room for other people looking for opportunities then.

All designers, be they for programs, interiors, products etc can make a living doing commissioned work and really dont have to rely on selling a mass produced product, thus patents are going the way of the dinosaur as customization becomes the norm.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

side effect of people voting for National and Labour consistently.

National seems to think American practices are a good idea, while Labour, when it doesn’t have actual Issues poping up that it has to keep on top of, seems to periodically decide it needs to implement social engineering projects, about half of which seem entirely designed to concentrate more power in the bureaucracy

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

damnit. forgot to remove the ‘less than’ sign based smilies.. that’s like, less than 1/6th of what i said, but i forget the rest. gah. had it set to plain text and everything.

anyway, was a big rant about us having political parties ranging from the useless to the dangerous, stupid voters, and then a general agreement with Sirknz.

also, it might make it through if it stays low profile enough that no outside pressure is applied to the government to change it, or if it ends up being used as a smoke screen to cover another attempt at dodgy copyright law changes.

Dave (profile) says:

Microsoft started by copying

If MS Dos wasn’t a total clone just made a lot friendlier then I don’t know what is. MS used to plead to the government for protection from “stifling patents” otherwise no one could ever compete with IBM. Now that they are one of the big boys they hope nobody ever innovates so you stick with MS. Software and computer interfaces should never be patentable. Patenting multi touch is a joke.

Robert Miller says:

Software Patents

Intellectual Property is intellectual Property. Instead of moaning about it if you have a creative bone in you knuckle heads then create something and protect it or join some utopian commune and keep smoking you favourite weed.

If New Zealand wants to join the first world it has to realise that Patent have been around for ages, even the Bolsheviks and Maoists believe in Patents.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Software Patents

never mind that attempting to follow ‘first world’ (ie, American) practices is a large part of why we’re Not a first world country anymore. (though apparently we still pay first world level taxes…)

not the Only reason, but certainly up there.

(it still amuses me that the NZ$ was worth more than the US$ for a while…)

abc gum says:

Re: Software Patents

“Intellectual Property is intellectual Property”

Brilliant ! The insight provided is astounding.

“Instead of moaning about it “

Not sure what you are talking about, I do not hear any moaning. (there is a joke there, but I will take the high road)

“create something and protect it or join some utopian commune and keep smoking you favourite weed.”

I’m sure many people create many things, and some of those people do not have the infantile need to “protect” their creations. Having made this choice does not cause them to become communist hippies.

“If New Zealand wants to join the first world “

They would want to join because the “first world” is such a shining example of the correct way of doing things.

1Place (profile) says:

10 years since human genome was sequenced with patent protection having a role

I think that the New Zealand approach is very sad. It is 10 years since the Human Genome was sequenced, during which software & genes were patented. I wrote a short article on this at

The disruptive protection of patents in software and genes made the race move forward at a rate never previously seen. Further, it lead to more genetic code being delivered into public gene libraries by Craig Venter’s firm Celera, than was contributed by the established government funded sciences at the time.

PCL says:

Software Patents

The arguments for patent protection for non-software inventions all apply to software, so I see no reason to exclude it. Software patents are complicated by the fact that both prior art, and violations can be concealed in non-published source code. Software can also be protected this way, which renders patent protection less important, though still useful against independently developed code that violates a given claim. The standards for novelty should probably be higher for software than other inventions; there’s no need to protect the software equivalent of the “Pet Rock”. New, non-obvious algorithms which perform useful tasks should get some protection though. It’s always amazed me the way copyright protection for music, movies and literature is thought by many to be a “sacred right” while patents on useful inventions are regarded by some of the same people as nothing more than tools for extortionists.

Arthur Baldwin says:

Software Patents

I’m not a New Zealander, I live in California. But I agree with this article, that Software Patents should be explicitly outlawed, not only in New Zealand but everywhere…especially in the USA. The reasons are clearly visible everywhere, from the world of technology to politics. I’ve designed a T-Shirt that gets right to the heart and foundation of this issue: “Intellectual Property is an Oxymoron. Even the most original ideas are gifts from God”. I hope that Americans will think about what I’m saying.



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