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New Zealand U-Turns, Will Grant Software Patents 94

ciaran_o_riordan writes "Due to lobbying by a group called NZICT, New Zealand's parliament is now set to let go of its proposal to ban software patents. Patent attorney Steven Lundberg announced the details in a blog entry. This was quickly deleted, but not before it got stored in Google's cache. Here we can read that 'Hon Simon Power has asked MED [Ministry of Economic Development] to work with the Parliamentary Counsel's Office to redraft the section along the lines of the European Patent Convention.' Which is exactly the opposite of March's announcement that 'computer software should be excluded from patent protection as software patents can stifle innovation and competition, and can be granted for trivial or existing techniques.' The background to this case gives every reason to be hopeful, if computer users in New Zealand get active again."
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New Zealand U-Turns, Will Grant Software Patents

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  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:29AM (#32662882) Homepage

    Someone's suggested mailing copies of Patent Absurdity [] to patent policy setters in NZ. They've started building a list here:

    Add as many names as you can think of - and we'll need something to indicate why this person is relevant and address. A name on its own is useful, but if that person is to receive a copy, someone will have to dig up an address.

  • Re:Citation needed? (Score:5, Informative)

    by stevebwriter ( 1840148 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:13AM (#32663048)
    I have spoken to two spokespeople for the NZ Ministry of Economic Development (MED), who confirm the essence of the meeting (as reported at [] Not yet printed (as at 10 pm NZ time June 23) is my brief interview with NZICT CEO Brett O'Riley about the meeting. So yes, it definitely happened. MED says there has been no real change; they are only "clarifying" what the Parliamentary Select Committee meant to say all along. I find it very hard to read any such significance into their report (PDF link at []). Steve Bell Computerworld NZ
  • by pieterh ( 196118 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:14AM (#32663056) Homepage

    The reason software patents are described as funny kinds of machines is to get around the disgust with which most people feel when maths and logic are turned into private possessions by force of lobbying.

    However, no matter how bizarre the patent language, and no matter whether or not the patent is granted or not, the final decision lies with a judge who determines whether or not the patent applies to a product being imported or sold. At this stage it is extremely simple to distinguish what is "software" from what is not. If you can download it and run it, it's software. So take for example a media player accused of infringing MP3 patents. If I can download and run a new codec, that is software.

    Now, who decides whether or not software is patentable? Clearly this clique of US firms trying to control the NZ market are cheating by referring to "Europe", since the same clique hacked the EPC over so many years, fighting EU civil society for years as it then tried to make that hack into EU-wide law.

    What they are now doing in Europe is to try to create a separate non-EU patent court that will decide on what is patentable, and what is not. Where judges are chosen by the patent industry. Which works for its clients, i.e. patent holders. I.e. Big pharma, big software, and big telco will be, indirectly but still in a controlled fashion, choosing the judges, and deciding on the outcome of patent arguments.

    It seems relatively cheap to buy lawmakers.

    The real issue here is simply democracy, and who makes the laws, and how.

  • by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:18AM (#32663082)
    Now preserved here in Slashdot comments for when it evaporates from cache:

    New Zealand Brings Software Patents back From Brink of Extinction
    New Zealand looks like its reversing course on software patent protection. On June 9, there was a meeting between representatives of NZ Ministry of Economic Development (MED) and representatives of NZICT Group. It appears that New Zealand is likely to ultimately adopt an approach to software patents that is consistent with the EPO’s position. My thanks to Jim Hallenbeck (Schwegman) and Paik Saber (IBM) for relaying this information.

    Here is the summary of the meeting provided by Brett O’Riley CEO of NZICT:

    Our representative delegation met with MED in Wellington yesterday. This was to discuss the formal submission we had made to Hon Simon Power last week covering our concerns about the proposed draft legislation.

    The end result of the meeting was extremely encouraging. While section 15 (3A) will not be removed (our ideal outcome), Hon Simon Power has asked MED to work with the Parliamentary Counsel’s Office to redraft the section along the lines of the European Patent Convention. He has informed the Commerce Select Committee that Crown Law will be undertaking some redrafting before the bill gets to its Second Reading.

    While it’s obviously not the end of the journey, it was very pleasing to have a positive indication that the Government recognises there is a need to amend section 15(3A) to make sure it’s consistent with the intent of adopting European practice. While European law does restrict software patents this is positive progress, and the view of our team is that this would be a good outcome for the New Zealand ICT industry.

    In summary, the MED confirmed earlier statements from Select Committee members and MED officials that the intent was to follow European law (even though this is not mentioned in the Commentary to the Patents Bill). The MED acknowledged that amendment is required to achieve this, and that the Minister supports finding a reasonable way forward on this point before proceeding with the Bill.

    The meeting was attended by myself, as well as Peter Wren-Hilton from Pingar, Dougal Watt and Julie Motley from IBM, and Waldo Kuipers from Microsoft. There was an apology from Ed Robinson (Aptimize) though I verbally covered his concerns. From the MED, Rory McLeod (Director – Competition, Trade and Investment Branch) attended, as did Silke Radde and Warren Hassett who are responsible for overall IP policy and the Patents Bill respectively.

    Rory McLeod began with an update on the Patents Bill clause 15(3A).

    He described the decision of the Select Committee as being to move to a “normal patentable situation as in Europe”, that did not allow patenting of software per se.

    Rory then went into some detail (partly in response to questions we had raised) about what the Select Committee intent was:
    The intent had never been to ban software patents outright (and the MED would have serious concerns about that if it were proposed).
    If it is patentable in the EU then it should be patentable in New Zealand.
    Software should be treated like other technology, so should have a technical purpose and be an inventive step to be patentable, as in Europe.
    Not just any software would be patentable, it would need to meet the above test.
    Embedded or not embedded is or was not the distinction that is intended.
    The signal that the Government wants to send is to follow European law and practice.

    The MED also now clearly acknowledge that clause 15(3A) is not adequate to convey this intent. It was great being able to present practical examples of world leading software being developed by Pingar and Aptimize, and hear MED recognise the importance of these companies being able to seek patent protection.

    The MED said they wou

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:25AM (#32663098) Journal

    And the world-wide actions against whaling ARE having an effect. Japan is "fighting" it tooth and nail but if you look closer it is more a case of saving face while slowly giving in then outright resistance. The number of whales is on the increase while whaling might soon be going down even further.

    So your point is completly and utterly wrong.

    Remember that even the longest journey starts with a single step. Your kind never ever gets anything done ever because you are unable to accept that you need to set this first step if you ever want to start out.

    "OMGZ, thisser pln not solvers evything at oncers, ts fail!"

  • Don't Panic Yet (Score:2, Informative)

    by foxylad ( 950520 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @11:22PM (#32673456) Homepage

    I'm a Kiwi, made a submission to the select committee, and have just sent an email to Simon Power suggesting he tread carefully.

    Before you all get too het up, I would emphasise that this is New Zealand. We have pretty transparent politics here, even to the level of releasing MP's expense claims (aside: we just had a great little storm in a teacup because one MP booked several porn movies to his hotel bill). Another really healthy thing about our tiny country is how directly you are connected to your representatives - you can usually pop in and have a chat face to face on Saturday mornings.

    I remember when our motorways didn't have median barriers, and we kept getting horrendous head-head collisions. After one such, the government came out and said they couldn't afford median barriers at that time. The reaction was pretty obvious - how much is a human life worth? People phoned or visited their MP, and within a week the government had announced funding for median barriers. It's great to live in a country with a government that is small enough that you know you can affect them.

    So I know my email will be read by someone who will talk directly to Mr. Power, if not by him. And assuming several other people do the same, he's going to realise he's stirred up a hornet's nest. Watch this space...

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