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Software will be unpatentable in New Zealand

 9:42 am on Jul 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's official: Software will be unpatentable in NZ [nzcs.org.nz]

Despite what appears to be a big-budget lobbying effort by the pro-patent fraternity, Hon Simon Power announced today that he wouldn't be modifying the proposed Patents Bill hence software will be unpatentable once the Bill passes into law.

This is significant. As we've previously pointed out software patents aren't black and white, and there are certainly pros and cons. However on balance, we believe they represent a far greater risk to smaller NZ-based software providers than opportunity, and there are many cases where they have significantly stifled innovation.



 11:12 am on Jul 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I come to like NZ more and more each day


 2:23 pm on Jul 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Now if only the US would do this...

Just because you can't patent software in NZ doesn't mean patent holders in other countries won't file injunctions to stop the sale of their software abroad.

Here's the fun part in the US, a patent holder can either sue to collect from the patent infringing product manufacturer OR they can sue the product user.

Since patents don't apply to NZ companies someone in the US can chase users of their infringing patented products, which has already happened in the past in other patent infringement cases.


 3:44 pm on Jul 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Sense. That's a rare thing from government these days.

Well done to that man.

Now the US just needs to see the light.


 5:38 pm on Jul 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, I have been thinking of moving to a remote island... New Zeland here I come :)


 3:37 pm on Jul 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

The US Patent system completely screwed up when they started to grant patents for processes just because a computer(hardware) was involved.

I've been working in systems & programming for decades and there are many ways to get from starting point A to ending point B.

Just because I design it one way(hopefully best) does not mean that somebody else cant design it their way.

Keep software in the copyright area where it belongs.

I saw something once that somebody was trying to patent "how to write a mystery novel". Sort of
"It was a dark, and stormy night............... the butler did it."


 12:44 am on Jul 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Right on ppc_newbie. It's like trying to copyright mathematical equations.
If Einstein came up with E=mc^2 (well, actually E^2 = p^2c^2 + m^2c^4) today he would've probably had to patent it just to "protect hist IP". Jeesh


 7:07 am on Jul 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

According to Groklaw, the first of a huge backlog of software patent applications in the US system has been rejected due to Bilski, with the ruling that "The unpatentability of abstract ideas was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bilski v. Kappos". On the face of it, this would appear to have the effect of canning pure software patents in the US, which is massively significant.



 3:55 pm on Jul 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

physics: Right on ppc_newbie. It's like trying to copyright mathematical equations.
If Einstein came up with E=mc^2 (well, actually E^2 = p^2c^2 + m^2c^4) today he would've probably had to patent it just to "protect hist IP". Jeesh

On the flip-side I've been waiting for some patent trolls to try make money off of some of the internet stuff that I was probably the first to program 25-30 years ago.

I walk in with prior art and give me big bunches of money.


 5:58 pm on Jul 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

E^2 = p^2c^2 + m^2c^4

Pure mathematics discovers truths that were already there; the mathematicians are not actually creating something new. The formulas express realities that already existed and were discoverable by any mathematician who came along and looked in the right places.

You have to actually create something before you can claim it as intellectual property. You have to do something with the formula, apply it somehow to create something that didn't exist before you did.

The letters of the alphabet are not copyrightable, but a new poem might be.

The notes of the musical scale are not copyrightable; but a song or a symphony might be.

Where does software fit in here? It makes sense to me that some things about software couldn't be claimed as anyone's intellectual property, but it does not follow that no aspect could be.

[edited by: buckworks at 6:04 pm (utc) on Jul 17, 2010]


 6:03 pm on Jul 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

buckworks, copyrights on software are fine. patents are not. plain and simple.


 6:05 pm on Jul 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Help me understand the difference between patents and copyrights in this context.


 12:15 am on Jul 18, 2010 (gmt 0)

Well, patents tend to be wielded by huge companies to claim that simple mechanisms belong to them (for instance, BT have a patent on the concept of a "hyperlink"), whereas copyright would only be useful to protect large chunks of original source code, to stop crooks simply copying the source and retyping a line here and there to claim it as unique.

Most of the mechanisms for which patents seem to be issued are basic concepts that can be (and usually already have been) implemented in a dozen or so lines of code. I've never heard a complaint about a software patent where I didn't think the mechanism being patented was bone simple.


 6:49 pm on Jul 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

buckworks, for example, I agree that Amazon should be able to copyright their software, but not patent the idea of the 'one click' purchase system. You should be able to copyright the code that implements your file system, but not patent the idea that files can be stored in directories.


 6:54 pm on Jul 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

Another way to think of it is that if WebmasterWorld.com had a patent on, let's say, "A system whereby individuals can post text based messages onto a web page using a computer input device" then WebmasterWorld.com could technically sue all other web forums for patent infringement.

If WebmasterWorld.com just copyrights their forum software, it means that you can't just take their code and do whatever you want with it.

Most 'free software' type people are pro copyright but anti patent. The GPL for example is a copyright - just with very strange terms compared to other copyrights (so strange that Richard Stallman calls it 'copyleft').

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