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NZ Draft Bill Rules Out Software Patents 194

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 IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @05:59AM (#31684964) Homepage

    Are you sure? I thought we had the stupid situation where companies were being granted patents in the UK in spite of the fact that Europe had banned them. IIRC one politician (who had obvious corporate connections) said it was only "right" and "fair" that they should be allowed more protection!

    Maybe I'm just interpreting it wrong, but that is how I read it.

  • Re:Why Not? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Becausegodhasmademe ( 861067 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:24AM (#31685088)
    Patents were not intended to provide protection to investors. The patent system was initially devised to spread scientific knowledge, allowing interested parties access to the technical information behind new innovations. Such a shame that they're main use now is to stifle the very thing they were intended to promote..!
  • Beauregard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:26AM (#31685096)

    In the US, software isn't patentable directly, either. If you claim "a program which causes a processor to perform the steps of...", then you get yourself a rejection under 35 USC 101, because a program isn't a process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter.

    One way that lawyers get around this is by claiming "a computer-readable storage medium storing a program which, when executed, causes a processor to perform the steps of...." A computer-readable storage medium (e.g., a hard drive) is generally considered to be an article of manufacture. This almost got tested in court several years ago, in In re Beauregard, but the USPTO decided to withdraw its rejection and issue the patent before the court got a chance to weigh in on it, and nobody has brought up the topic in litigation since then.

  • Re:Why Not? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:29AM (#31685116)

    Because, some poor sucker programmer, living in his mom's basement, could come up with the same idea tomorrow, and find a way to make it work so much better.But the poor sod, who has no idea that the base for his work has a patent on it, will have his ass kicked for his hard work.

    Patents STOP progress, and are rewarding the WRONG people.. They should be kept out of the incredibly fast paced world of computer software.

    If you can't capitalize on your idea fast enough, tough freaking biscuits..

    Copyright on the other hand is a useful protective tool. It stops people stealing your work byte for byte, note for note, word for word... But even that has been abused by insane time limits.

    I am a programmer, and what I'd give to have free reign over my creative process... what I could accomplish without having to worry about the bullshit associated with software patents in the Divided States of Assholica. Seriously, please someone nuke those jerks, starting with their patent offices..

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:31AM (#31685130)

    Because it's far too easy to accidentally create a program that infringes on a patent, most software are made up of basic building blocks that together make a unique product, so if anything should be patentable it should be the building blocks, and only the ones that are not trivial, but who gets to decide this? Which means that we end up in court, which costs a lot of money and opens up for trolls.

    Copyright (a short, say 2-5 years depending on product) and trademark should be enough to discourage competition, if competition can make a program just like yours without copying you and still sell it at a lower cost then you are doing something wrong or your product just wasn't unique enough.

  • by jcupitt65 ( 68879 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:52AM (#31685260)

    That's right, rather like domain squatting, people have been randomly patenting stuff in the hope that they might have something valuable once software patents are allowed in the UK.

    Fortunately (from my point of view, anyway, as an independent developer) software patents in Europe have been knocked on the head and these things will remain worthless for a few more years at least.

  • Don't cheer yet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @06:55AM (#31685290) Homepage

    This is a DRAFT of a bill. It's not even a bill yet. And while some are speculating that this is intended to get more public attention, I think it may be intended to get more private (funds) attention. With all the high pressure lobbying [read "involves a lot of money"] I imagine NZ's government may be feeling they aren't getting their share of attention from those in support of software patentability. The inclusion of this may only be there to rattle some cages.

  • Re:Why Not? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:13AM (#31685390)

    Even the simple GIF format, which wasn't particularly clever at all, got a patent.

    No. Terry Welch's improvement on Abraham Lempel and Jacob Ziv's LZ78 algorithm was patented, making the LZW algorithm used for compressing the data in a GIF file a patented process. The GIF file format was never patented (I don't think that's even possible, but IANAL).

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

    by bit01 ( 644603 ) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:40AM (#31685576)

    If I invent a new physical device -- an array of levers and cogs to build something, or a new chemical process to manufacture something -- I can patent it.

    I start a new hardware store in a growing town. It's a physical construction that nobody has done in that town before. Why can't I patent that idea and stop other people starting a competing hardware store when they see it's a success? Think carefully about your answer.

    Personally, I am thoroughly sick of people who automatically assume that patents, a massive government interference in citizens minding their own business, will encourage innovation in every area of human endeavour when it's quite clear they don't. If they're going to argue for this government interference then they should at least have some scientific evidence that it is a net positive in any particular area. Not the usual childish handwaving about how an inventor won't invent without patents (history shows this is nonsense) and that patents have no harmful effect on society and the free exchange of ideas (also nonsense).

    Conversely, there do seem to be advatages to keeping software patents.

    A patent stops billions of people from using an idea that's probably going to be independently re-invented many times so that one (1) person can have additional incentive to invent something. Explain to me why this is a net positive? Particularly for software industry where the entry cost is so low? Keep in mind I'm well aware of patent proponents usual handwaving excuses.

    Your example is just sad. The vast majority of inventors will never get that break and in addition they'll be held back by the patent portfolios of large companies. Patents are just a tool, large companies have more of them and patents in no way change the balance of power between corporations and individuals.

    The software patent system may be in need of repair, but is it really worth throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

    There is no baby. Your automatic assumption there must be without evidence is telling.

    In addition to the above the patent system is based on very shaky intellectual foundations. They can't even objectively decide whether two shades of the color orange are the same or different, let alone whether two ideas are the same or different, a far more complex question and at the heart of deciding whether something is new.


    Every new patent is a new law; another opportunity for a lawyer to make money at the expense of the wider community.

  • Re:Beauregard (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:51AM (#31685654)

    This almost got tested in court several years ago, in In re Beauregard, but the USPTO decided to withdraw its rejection and issue the patent before the court got a chance to weigh in on it, and nobody has brought up the topic in litigation since then.

    Behind the scenes the USPTO let the patent pass in exchange for getting the rights to monetize on Beauregard as an inspiration to the Na'vi from Avatar.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson