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...

Filed Under: new zealand, patents

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  1. identicon
    PCL, 7 Apr 2010 @ 3:39am

    Re: 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.

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