04.09.10

New Zealand’s Software Industry Under Attack by the ‘Patent Leeches’

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 9:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Anand Satyanand
New Zealand’s Governor-General Anand Satyanand.

Summary: Leeches in suits are trying to block a policy that would enable Free software developers to build the country’s infrastructure in peace

LAST week we wrote about New Zealand's admirable prospective law that would forbid the patenting (make-believe ‘ownership’) of mathematics encoded as algorithms. It only makes sense and it agrees with the wants/desires of software engineers, who realise that copyright law protects their work and does not ever lead them to accidental infringements (unless they merge external code that they do not recognise).

“All the big guys are flying to New Zealand to send their lobbyists and patent lawyers to lobby for software patents”
      –Benjamin Henrion, FFII’s president
There are two types of people who can conceivably protest against such sane laws; one is the person who works for the meta-industry that’s making money by taxing software developers (software monopoly tolls can principally be patent trolls or law firms) and the second is the person who works for a company that monopolised an area of computing and is now trying to block any entrants from entering the same market/s.

Here is the latest report about the “software patent ban” that New Zealand plans to put in place. “All the big guys are flying to New Zealand to send their lobbyists and patent lawyers to lobby for software patents,” says the president of the FFII (Europe) and IDG has just published this article about the role Microsoft plays, along with other developers of non-Free software (which does not respect its users’ rights):

The New Zealand Open Source Society is expecting powerful interests to bring pressure on the government to reverse plans to exclude software from patent protection in New Zealand.

In a post on the NZOSS website yesterday, vice president Peter Harrison applauded the Commerce Select Committee’s recommendation to exclude software from patent protection and responded to critics of the proposal.

“In all honesty it was very unexpected that we would be able to change the direction of this legislation. That we have put forward a argument that was sufficiently compelling means our hard work over the last several years has indeed born fruit,” Harrison says.

[...]

In response, Harrison says many members who also develop proprietary software support the exclusion and patents are harmful to all software development houses.

They already have copyrights. Harrison was not alone though; Ken Moon from A J Park (which describes itself as “New Zealand’s leading intellectual property firm”) wrote this piece on the first of April. At first sight I was certain it was a joke (April’s Fool), but upon closer inspection it turned out to be serious in tone. It also says: “The US allows patents for all types of software inventions and the distinction is irrelevant, but the UK, following the European Patent Convention, does draw a distinction and only excludes from patentable subject matter computer programs “as such”. This wording was specifically to allow patents for embedded software.

“A loud minority of monopolies/monopolists, their lobbyists, and the lawyers whom they pay are trying to make everything under the sun patentable (and thus a monopoly protected by law, not just practice).”Here in the UK we have Brimelow’s arrogance to thank for that [1, 2]. Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps said that the EPO “can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.” Brimelow essentially let Microsoft exclude or sue Free software in Europe and even though she is leaving, the damage she did is here to stay (for now).

Anyway, New Zealand is in a position that’s similar to that of Europe. A loud minority of monopolies/monopolists, their lobbyists, and the lawyers whom they pay are trying to make everything under the sun patentable (and thus a monopoly protected by law, not just practice). Here is a development from yesterday’s news:

If this is “innovation”, then innovation is not such a wonderful thing.

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