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.

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Comments on “New Zealand To Dump Software Patents Afterall (But Will Allow 'Embedded Software' Patents)”

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13 Comments
Tor (profile) says:

That’s good news. I hope they will be able to uphold this rule too. In Europe we have the European Patent Convention that excludes “schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business, and programs for computers” and “scientific theories and mathematical methods” from patentability. However, through twisted interpratations of that it seems to be possible in some countries to get pure software patents granted anyway.

Anyway, since New Zealand have signed the TRIPS agreement it’s good to have examples to point to of countries that interprete it such that excluding software patents is possible. That’s very welcome.

Solomon Linda says:

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Patents for software are just dumb.

Securing anything cost thousands of dollars if not millions, raise insurmountable barriers and give rise to exploitative tactics that diminish any culture inside society.

People loose sight of what it is important. i.e. Work done.
They start thinking they can live of some dream pipe idea for eternity that is not how reality works, when work stops so do innovation and infra-structure growth.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Software patents

Right on, again! I am an IP attorney, and I am developing very strong evidence of the value of some IP (actually, the type the founding fathers had in mind). However, there is no reasonable purpose to software (or business method, for that matter) patents.

In fact, most IP is so badly abused today that we really need a major revamp, starting with eliminating software and business method patents.

Greg says:

Re: Software patents

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a lawyer against software patents here in the States. Most programmers I know are against these patents, but ALL of the lawyers I know think they are God’s gift to innovation.

I think the first step to embracing this law change is to setup a new sourceforge spin-off in NZ. Whether the NZ economy benefits from this law will play out over a few years. Will other countries change their laws? Will the quantity of software patent litigation in the U.S. continue to increase at such a rapid rate? If other countries don’t change their laws and patent litigation continues it’s exponential growth you can be sure hundreds of small software firms will be at least domiciled in NZ.

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