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NZ Draft Bill Rules Out Software Patents 194

Posted by timothy
from the plus-it's-beautiful-there dept.
Korgan writes "In what must be a first in the face of ACTA and US trade negotiations pressure, a Parliamentary select committee has released a draft bill that explicitly declares that software will no longer be patentable in New Zealand. FTA: 'Open source software champions have been influential in excluding software from the scope of patents in the new Patents Bill. Clause 15 of the draft Bill, as reported back from the Commerce Select Committee, lists a number of classes of invention which should not be patentable and includes the sub-clause "a computer program is not a patentable invention."'"
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NZ Draft Bill Rules Out Software Patents

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  • by SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @05:33AM (#31684810) Homepage

    Software patents have never been allowed in Europe, and the UK like to make a big stand against such patents.

    http://eupat.ffii.org/log/intro/ [ffii.org]

    It's really only the Americas that have software patents.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_patent [wikipedia.org]

  • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:04AM (#31684998)
    That's how it is. The push to codify software patents has failed, however there hasn't been a successful counter-push to have software declared unpatentable. Right now it's a grey zone where software is patentable but the patents are theoretically unenforcable as they have no legal ground to stand on.
  • Re:Why Not? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:21AM (#31685078)

    Because an algorithm/piece of software is essentially just a mathematical formula. And formulae are not patentable.

  • Re:Bad wording? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:44AM (#31685610)

    In the period 1945-1980, it was generally believed that patent law did not pertain to software. However, it now appears that some people have received patents for algorithms of practical importance--e.g., Lempel-Ziv compression and RSA public key encryption--and are now legally preventing other programmers from using these algorithms.

    This is a serious change from the previous policy under which the computer revolution became possible, and I fear this change will be harmful for society. It certainly would have had a profoundly negative effect on my own work: For example, I developed software called TeX that is now used to produce more than 90% of all books and journals in mathematics and physics and to produce hundreds of thousands of technical reports in all scientific disciplines. If software patents had been commonplace in 1980, I would not have been able to create such a system, nor would I probably have ever thought of doing it, nor can I imagine anyone else doing so. I am told that the courts are trying to make a distinction between mathematical algorithms and nonmathematical algorithms. To a computer scientist, this makes no sense, because every algorithm is as mathematical as anything could be. An algorithm is an abstract concept unrelated to physical laws of the universe.

    Nor is it possible to distinguish between "numerical" and "nonnumerical" algorithms, as if numbers were somehow different from other kinds of precise information. All data are numbers, and all numbers are data. Mathematicians work much more with symbolic entities than with numbers.

    Therefore the idea of passing laws that say some kinds of algorithms belong to mathematics and some do not strikes me as absurd as the 19th century attempts of the Indiana legislature to pass a law that the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter is exactly 3, not approximately 3.1416. It's like the medieval church ruling that the sun revolves about the earth. Man-made laws can be significantly helpful but not when they contradict fundamental truths.

    --Donald Knuth

    What I'm still not getting, is what could possibly make you think you know better than Donald Knuth...

  • by Tellarin (444097) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @09:05AM (#31686298) Homepage Journal

    Hey, not the Americas, just the US.

    Brazil and most of South America have no concept of software patents.

    In Brazil specifically, the law says that mechanism to protect software is the same as literary works, i.e. copyright. Business methods are also not patentable in Brazil.

    Mexican law also states that software (computer programs) are not inventions and thus, not subject to patents.

    In 2009 Canada also rejected software and business methods patents. As far as I know, this has not changed. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

  • Re:Why Not? (Score:4, Informative)

    by EllisDees (268037) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @09:21AM (#31686464)

    >Your garden variety software inventions has little to do with math.

    No, all software *is* math. Completely.

  • As someone deeply involved in the Patents Act process in NZ (I wrote my thesis on it ;-) http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/handle/10063/1027?show=full [vuw.ac.nz] And presented to Parliament on the Act; I can tell you that the Select Committee report is the final stages before the Bill is either passed in Parlimentary Session or thrown out for another full round (considering the current Draft on the Table started in 2002 I doubt that will happen).
  • by danomac (1032160) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @11:51AM (#31688692)

    In 2009 Canada also rejected software and business methods patents. As far as I know, this has not changed. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.

    I don't think they've completely outlawed software patents. The way I read it is that anything tied to a business model is not allowed (hence Amazon's silly 1-click being tossed.) It appears you can still patent a computer-implemented process, but not the program itself.

    From what I've read, Canada generally will not allow a patent on software unless it's been tied to hardware in some way. Almost all software patents currently in the US would be ruled as business methods here and thrown out as a result.

    Sources: Source 1 [jurisdiction.com] and Source 2 [michaelgeist.ca].

  • Re:Innovation? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rennt (582550) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @12:17PM (#31689040)

    Happy to discuss your example.

    Google (in this context) is a search engine - If you want people to use your search engine, you don't need to tell them HOW it finds results.

    The PageRank algorithm is an implementation. Search algorithms existed long before PageRank, and new ones are dreamt up all the time.

    Now, Stanford University didn't patent PageRank to release it to the public. It's not like PageRank was some sekrit sauce that would be lost forever if the algorithm had not been described. On the contrary, if it hadn't been patented it could have been freely reverse engineered. In this case, patents have postponed wider use of this useful algorithm, and so harmed progress.

    Let's say tomorrow someone comes up with an algorithm for strong AI.

    A more interesting proposition to be sure, but a fantastical one. If you push me on it though I would say say patents are likely to stave off the singularity rather then hasten its arrival.

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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