New Zealand Politicians Convinced By Lobbyists To Bring Back Software Patents

from the so-much-for-that dept

There was widespread happiness among software developers a few months back, when it was announced that New Zealand had decided to explicitly ban software patents. Of course, it didn’t take long for a lobbying campaign to kick off from those opposed to this provision, and it appears the lobbying was effective, such that software patents will now be allowed — though, they will still be somewhat limited (as they are in Europe). So, it’s not quite as bad as the situation in the US. A New Zealand patent attorney posted a letter from the head of the lobbying group discussing this shift. While that blog post has since been deleted, as of this posting Google still has the cache. Most of the letter rambles on a bit about who was in the meeting, but the key points are towards the end, where he claims that the government official they met with made the following points:

  • The intent had never been to ban software patents outright (and the MED would have serious concerns about that if it were proposed).
  • If it is patentable in the EU then it should be patentable in New Zealand.
  • Software should be treated like other technology, so should have a technical purpose and be an inventive step to be patentable, as in Europe.
  • Not just any software would be patentable, it would need to meet the above test.
  • Embedded or not embedded is or was not the distinction that is intended.
  • The signal that the Government wants to send is to follow European law and practice.

Of course, that does seem to contradict some of what was discussed a few months back, where it was explicitly stated that:

“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.

In general, you accept that position until the lobbyists get busy, apparently.

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Comments on “New Zealand Politicians Convinced By Lobbyists To Bring Back Software Patents”

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56 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Dear person posting this: please be aware that when you post from your work account, we are aware of the corresponding IP address, which exposes who you work for.

Would you care to share that with the folks you are insulting? For example, would you, perhaps, like to share whether or not you are an unbiased party here?”

classy stuff from techdirt. be aware of where you post from. mike is more than willing to reveal information that you thought was private.

Shawn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I do not see ANY threat from Mike to reveal the information. He is reminding the poster that (techdirt) can see that the poster has an outside agenda and invites the poster to man up and stop hiding behind the AC name. Mike did not say “Would you like Techdirt to reveal this?” He challenged the poster to stop being a dick 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

In fact, here, let me help you out if you have firefox. Go to tools > Options > Privacy.

See where it says Accept Third Party Cookies

Uncheck that.

For the most part that will substantially reduce your concerns. I even have it unchecked.

and if you’re extra paranoid, like myself, type in about:config

Type in referer

network.http.sendRefererHeader pops up

Set that value to 0
(that is, zero the number, not O the letter)

This may break some things but will ensure more privacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Meh, so Mike knows your IP adress. And knows how to use whois/traceroute. Big deal.

But I’ll give you a tip for free: If you’re going to be an asshole on the internet, please try to cover your tracks (and for the love of pete, don’t use your work account).

Some people don’t take kindly to your “assholery” and might want expose you for who you are.

But you should be happy. It’s accountability on the Internet. Isn’t that something you always wanted?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

it is commonly called intimidation or even extortion: “shut up or i will out you”.

“But you should be happy. It’s accountability on the Internet. Isn’t that something you always wanted?” – accountablity for all, or for none. not selective when it is used to intimidate or stifle free speech. after all, you (and the rest of the techdirt staff) are all for free speech, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“it is commonly called intimidation or even extortion: “shut up or i will out you”.”

So he does that. Then what? If your points are really valid, you come out of the shadows and defend them and make Mike look like an idiot. If Mike pulls a stunt like that and you humiliate him in public, he loses all his credibility. It’s a win-win situation for you unless…you have no valid points?

“accountablity for all, or for none.”

So…you want it or not? Pick one.

“not selective when it is used to intimidate or stifle free speech”

Ok, so, you are free to post nonsense and trash people anonymously but Mike isn’t free to make some random accusation (like you so often do)? (Notice that, until now, we have no proof of his accusations. He hasn’t “done” anything yet). Does freedom of speech only work one way?

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Looks to me like he was trying to tell the poster to play nice with others instead of flaming people.

I see no threat he simply pointed out to the poster that the site admin (and I would assume some other staff as well) can see personal information.

He then challenged the poster to reveal their self if they are going to insult people(a reasonable request to me).

As the site admin he has a responsibility to make sure that the discussions have a positive impact on the site. Disagreement generally is good, name calling almost always is bad. Anonymous name calling is the type of behavior that gets IP bans on all the forums I have worked on.

That Mike chooses to try to work with people who seem more interested in disruption than dialog, instead of simply banning them tells me he is genuinely concerned with allowing those who disagree with him to have a voice.

If you disagree with the way Mike handles this site you are of course free to leave, it is not a democracy it is his site. I would hope that you would try to use some of your obvious intelligence and use that in your posts more than the passion you so frequently let prevail. Perhaps then it will be easier to consider the points you are trying to make.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I haven’t seen any evidence that TechDirt has ever outed someone in any way other than to let the other readers know that someone does, in fact, work for a company with a clear agenda that may influence what they say.

Never have I seen the actual name of the company or someone’s name who wants to remain anonymous.

The day I do – well, I have to stop commenting on this site.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Can someone explain

I assume you’re ranking the posts. If you thought it was insightful, you click that. If you thought it was informative, you click that (yes, the two are similar concepts. They’re not identical but there does seem to be overlap). I don’t know which one is “better” but it seems that you can give a post both rankings at once regardless. If you didn’t like it, instead of giving it a thumbs down or something you are only encouraged to report it.

Uhm… I wonder if I can give a post an insightful ranking, an informative ranking, and report it all at once? Well, I haven’t reported anything yet and I figure I’ll just abstain from that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Can someone explain

I assume you’re ranking the posts. If you thought it was insightful, you click that. If you thought it was informative, you click that (yes, the two are similar concepts. They’re not identical but there does seem to be overlap). I don’t know which one is “better” but it seems that you can give a post both rankings at once regardless. If you didn’t like it, instead of giving it a thumbs down or something you are only encouraged to report it.

Uhm… I wonder if I can give a post an insightful ranking, an informative ranking, and report it all at once? Well, I haven’t reported anything yet and I figure I’ll just abstain from that.

cc (profile) says:

Re: Can someone explain

Yes, that would be useful… because they don’t appear to actually do anything.

There should be a score or something displayed for the “insightful”/”informative” ones to guide our eyes to the useful comments, and if a comment gathers enough “report” clicks, it should be folded (i.e., hidden, and there could be a button to reveal it).

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Can someone explain

“pompous penguin?”

That so totally describes me … thanks I just ordered a football jersey with the linux penguin on the front and pompous penguin 42 on the back.

pom·pous (pmps)
adj.
1. Characterized by excessive self-esteem or exaggerated dignity; pretentious: pompous officials who enjoy giving orders.
2. Full of high-sounding phrases; bombastic: a pompous proclamation.
3. Chracterized by pomp or stately display; ceremonious: a pompous occasion.

Nick Taylor says:

Who are these people?

Does anyone know who the politicians and lobbyists actually are. You know – names and addresses and so on.

Sounds threatening doesn’t it? Meant to be. Politicians that are representing wealthy interests rather than the electorates that they are elected, and paid to represent, should be hung out to dry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Software patents don't make sense

Any sensible person should realise that software patents don’t make sense.

Here’s the great Donald Knuth on the subject: http://www.pluto.it/files/meeting1999/atti/no-patents/brevetti/docs/knuth_letter_en.html

Read it. It’s a shame politicians feel compelled to legislate on subjects they clearly don’t understand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Software patents don't make sense

Politicians almost always think that more monopolies are better. That’s why practically everything is monopolized.

For instance, how do taxi cab monopolies promote the progress?

Usually more monopolies are better for a politician’s political career. Monopolists can direct some of their excessive monopoly rents towards the politicians political campaign. This gives bought politicians an unfair advantage over honest politicians and in the end the most corrupt politicians win. But without monopolies who would direct money towards a politician, those earning a normal profit? and what for, to make less money? To make costs higher making their product more expensive so that no one will buy it? Clearly politicians favor campaign contributions from government created monopolists over the lack thereof from free market capitalism.

Richard Corsale (profile) says:

Pfft we all knew It was just a matter of time. The power of big industry is overwhelming the USA and all of EU. New Zealand didn’t stand a chance.

These patents allow companies to tax innovation that would otherwise threaten them. Idea patents are little more than disruptive technology insurance. These lawyers know it, you know it, I know it, hell even trolls know it.

Anonymous Coward says:

From the lobby, in closing

Our approach will continue to be to work closely with MED until the redrafted bill has been sighted. We will also continue to socialise the issue with other stakeholders. Please confirm you are happy with this approach. I welcome any comments you may have.

We represent the supply side of the New Zealand Information and Communications Technology
industry: Software, Hardware, Services, Networks, Education and Training

Regards

Brett O’Riley
Chief Executive Officer | NZICT Group

M +64 21 02709021 | Skype: brett.oriley
E brett.oriley@ict.org.nz | W http://www.ict.org.nz

Dave Lane (user link) says:

Re: From the lobby, in closing

Hello Brett,

In our personal discussion, you and I have already agreed that the NZICT emphatically *does not* represent the views of the NZ ICT industry. In fact, you and a fellow board member explicitly requested my advice on how you could make the NZICT more appealing to kiwi firms to remedy the obvious credibility gap you currently have.

The reality is that you represent, at most, the views of approximately 90 organisations, almost all of which are either the NZ-branches of foreign owned multinational corporations or are their closely affiliated commercial partners.

It’s worth noting that NONE of the top 15 kiwi software vendors (as listed in the 2009 TIN1000 Industry report) are members of NZICT:
1. Orion Health
2. Jade
3. Information Tools
4. Blackbay
5. PayGlobal
6. Vista
7. Wherescape
8. Prism
9. SLI
10. Sysmex
11. Greentree
12. Medtech
13. Touchpoint
14. Ceibe
15. Finzsoft

In reality, a more appropriate name for your incorporated lobby group would be “ForeignICT” (hat tip to the director of one of the above companies for providing that name). I question your credibility in this matter, Brett.

Regards,

Dave Lane
Director, Egressive

Sargent Patent says:

Re: Re:

Can you show me ANY evidence that the absence of these patents that you have requested have done anything at all to inhibit the lack of innovation?

I didn’t think so. Software patents are an important process in preserving our Anglo legal heritage! You people just want to STEAL the inventions that people invent. JUST BECAUSE THE INVENTION IS IN THEIR HEAD AND NOT IN THE “REAL WORLD”! You guys make me sick.

Software patents = high paying jobs (JOBS JOBS JOBS)

Art (profile) says:

Re: Re: #50 by Sargent Patent

Sargent Patent wrote:

I didn’t think so. Software patents are an important process in preserving our Anglo legal heritage! You people just want to STEAL the inventions that people invent. JUST BECAUSE THE INVENTION IS IN THEIR HEAD AND NOT IN THE “REAL WORLD”! You guys make me sick.

The idea behind patents is not that you have an idea, it’s that you implement that idea, and then share with the country how that invention works, in exchange for a time-limited monopoly.

That is, you can’t patent the idea of “heavier than air air travel powered by an engine,” but you can patent an airplane. An airplane is difficult to invent, but, I can invent a different method of air travel, such as a helicopter. If rockets had been around at the time of the Wright brothers I might even have been able to patent a rocket-powered airplane.

By contrast Friendster patented the idea of a social network, that is assessing people’s relationships based on mutual connections. The idea was not hard work, it’s not clear that Friendster actually invented the social network (see also: LiveJournal), and certainly not clear that the idea is is non-obvious. It does not merit a 28 year monopoly.The hard work was not in coming up with that idea, and the idea should not be patentable.

The specific code that Friendster uses is subject to copyright. Moreover the classes, subroutines, and functions required for a social network, the architecture is a great deal of effort to design (though probably still not meriting 28 years’ protection). I know because I’ve tried to write a social network. If Friendster patented its particular architecture, it does not block me from coming up with a different architecture going through the hard work of coming up with a working prototype.

If I’m not making myself clear, just imagine if Alia had patented search engines, or if OpenDiary had patented the idea of a blog. Imagine if somebody had patented the idea of “selling stuff over the internet, by means of a computer.”

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