04.21.10

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The Legal ‘Industry’ of Software Patents

Posted in Law, Patents at 4:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

New Auckland montage
Picture by Taifarious1, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Summary: Support for software patents in New Zealand mostly comes from outsiders of the software industry — those to whom software is just something to tax with legal expenses

THIS post is likely to rub some lawyers (solicitors, attorneys, whatever) the wrong way, but it does not suggest that all lawyers are counter-productive; it does strive to show that segments of legal occupations are more concerned with taxing regular activities. They neither prevent crime nor promote science/trade.

One such example that we mentioned earlier this month involves software patents in New Zealand. Law firms in New Zealand are among the most vocal supporters of software patents in this nation, despite the fact that the New Zealand Computer Society, for example, opposes software patents (New Zealand’s largest application vendor also rejects software patents). In many ways, these patent lawyers are like the Military Industrial Complex; the only currency they grok is patent applications and patent lawsuits; they monetise friction and disputes. Is that the best which the software patents lobby can offer? One law firm after another in the New Zealand press? We have documented many examples so far and it’s a true pattern.

“Is that the best which the software patents lobby can offer? One law firm after another in the New Zealand press?”The following new story/press release (it is presented as a story but it’s ghostwritten) is an example of more lawyers from New Zealand lobbying for patentability of software. The messenger describes itself as “New Zealand’s pre-eminent law firm delivers the highest levels of legal and business performance.”

Is this the type of ‘industry’ which ought to decide ‘on behalf’ of computer scientists what type of ‘protection’ they need or don’t need? Of course not, it’s ridiculous. It’s like letting Blackwater make the decision on whether to fight Iraq or not. It’s almost inconceivable and it’s rather irresponsible for the New Zealand press to have published those self-promotional, greed-motivated pieces favouring software patents.

Software developers decided a long time ago that copyrights fulfill their needs. They don’t want to risk thousands of lawsuits or at least threats from patent holders they were not even aware of. They want to write code, not to study patent applications all day. Justice John Paul Stevens understood this and he seemingly opposed software patents, even in his own country which is one among very few that allow software patents. Stevens is leaving though (patent lawyers are openly excited about it) and Law.com looks at his legacy. [via]

We’ve been doing a little thinking about outgoing Justice John Paul Stevens and what his legacy will be when it comes to intellectual property. Patent lawyers will surely remember Stevens as one of the justices who, along with justices Breyer and Souter, signed a strongly-worded dissent in the LabCorp v. Metabolite case. Because it was dismissed due to a technicality in the lower courts, LabCorp had no impact on the law, but the dissent showed that Stevens was one of at least three justices keen to rein in the extent of patentable subject matter. If, as many expect, the forthcoming Bilski decision places even greater limits on the patent system, it’s likely that Stevens will have a hand in that.

Here is our main page about In Re Bilski. Even the United States is beginning to see that software patents make no sense, but Microsoft will fight for them, even in New Zealand.

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