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Patents Software Your Rights Online

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 BlakJak-ZL1VMF ( 256320 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:46AM (#32662952) Homepage

    One of the key issues with NZICT is that they claim to represent the New Zealand IT community, and yet in reality their membership is governed by commercial size - and of course, all the large outfits with precious few exceptions are the local chapters of the multinational giants (Microsoft, HP, et al).

    So what this situation illustrates is

    a) The Select Committee process is a joke (as it appears if you have sufficient clout, you can ignore it and go straight to the minister)
    b) NZICT are shooting a good portion of New Zealand's home grown ICT industry in the foot, and pretending that it's for the good of the industry at large.

    By and large the Patent world provides leverage for large firms with large patent portfolios and the budget to play in the legal marketplace. It hurts smaller firms who don't have the capital for prolonged legal battles. The arguments 'for' Patents are not entirely without merit (imho) but the arguments 'against' outweigh them by a mile - unless there's profit to be lost.

  • by FlorianMueller ( 801981 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @08:31AM (#32663622) Homepage

    Simon Phipps, former chief open source executive of Sun Microsystems, has just asked IBM's open source VP Bob Sutor via Twitter [twitter.com] (with a reference to this very slashdot story) to clarify IBM's role in lobbying for software patents in New Zealand. It will be interesting to see Bob Sutor's response, should there ever be one.

    When it comes to patents, IBM stands for International Bullying Machines [blogspot.com]...

  • Wrong question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus.slash ... com minus author> on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @10:01AM (#32664484) Homepage Journal

    '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.'

    In US Patent Law, and in every PCT country in the world, there are three base questions for whether something can be patented (there are more, too, but these are the important ones):
    1. is the technique already known? In other words, is it already existing?
    2. is the technique obvious? In other words, is it trivial?
    3. does the technique comprise patentable subject matter?

    These are three completely independent questions, and that's what the quote gets wrong... It answers the third question with "all computer software should be excluded from patent protection", but only as a result of the first two questions "because they can be granted for trivial or existing techniques". That's not an issue with software - that's an issue with everything. Patents shouldn't be granted for machines, engines, chemical compounds, or anything else that is either trivial (obvious) or existing (known).

    The point of the third question is, should a technique that is completely unknown to man and not at all obvious still not be patentable, because it's in the field of _____? For example, in the US, we consider laws of nature to be unpatentable, even if they're completely unknown and non-trivial.

    So, when you talk about whether software should be patentable - whether it's merely an "abstract mathematical algorithm" performable by a Turing machine - the question is not whether patents get granted for trivial or existing methods... but whether a non-trivial, new method should still be unpatentable, solely because it's software.

Philosophy: A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. -- Ambrose Bierce