New Zealand To Dump Software Patents Afterall (But Will Allow 'Embedded Software' Patents)
from the back-and-forth dept
Back in March, we discussed a report claiming that New Zealand politicians wanted to completely outlaw software patents. However, in June, it was reported that a lobbying group claiming to represent tech industry companies, NZICT, had convinced politicians to back down somewhat, and go back to allowing certain types of software patents. In our comments, there was a bit of an interesting discussion, with one knowledgeable New Zealander noting that NZICT mostly represents foreign tech companies, and that none of the top 15 New Zealand software firms are members.
It looks like those reports of NZ politicians backing down may have been a bit premature. Chirag Mehta points us to the news that, despite the lobbying effort, it’s been announced that the patent bill will not be changed, thus basic software will remain unpatentable. However, the details suggest that embeddable software can be patented, and there are some concerns that the “guidelines” (yet to be developed) for such embeddable software will be used by some to sneak in standard software patents.
Still, it’s good to see New Zealand realizing that basic software patents can be harmful. It sounds like a big help was the fact that the two biggest New Zealand software companies both came out against software patents certainly helped. Orion Health noted that patents generally are “counter-productive” and “are often used obstructively.” The company also noted that the ” best protection is to innovate and innovate fast.” Exactly. Meanwhile, Jade said: “We believe the patent process is onerous, not suited to the software industry, and challenges our investment in innovation.”
And really, the fact that the domestic software industry doesn’t want software patents, while foreign competitors did, is not a surprise. If you look back at the history of patents, it’s the same story over and over again. When Switzerland was finally pressured into adding patent protection for dyes, it was due to strong pressure from foreign dyemakers. When Italy was finally pressured into adding patents on pharmaceuticals, again it was due to strong pressure from foreign pharmaceutical firms. In both cases, after patents were put in place, they weren’t used to make those industries more innovative, but for large multinational conglomerates to come in and lock up the market. It’s nice to see that New Zealand may avoid this fate on software.