“[The EPO] can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.”
–Marshall Phelps, Microsoft
Summary: The vague distinction between embedded and non-embedded software leaves room for Microsoft to harm Free software in New Zealand; Microsoft’s software patents still pushed into GNU/Linux via Novell
THE PATENT policy situation in New Zealand is an iffy one; it’s neither a win nor a loss, but a loophole remained to allow software companies (Microsoft et al.) to do there what they already do in Europe, namely patent their software. This issue with the loophole is being recognised by Red Hat’s Web site, which now states:
For the past few months, the debate revolved around the section titled “Patentable Inventions” in the Patents Bill. Right off the bat, this section says, “We recommend amending clause 15 to include computer programs among inventions that may not be patented.” This obviously did not go too well with the pro-software patents lobby and open source supporters feared that this recommendation may be overturned. However, on 15th July, 2010, a New Zealand Government web site reported that Commerce Minister, Simon Power instructed the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) to develop guidelines to allow inventions that contain embedded software to be patented. “My decision follows a meeting with the chair of the Commerce Committee where it was agreed that a further amendment to the bill is neither necessary nor desirable,” Mr. Power said.
“We recommend that the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand develop guidelines for inventions containing embedded software.”
This is not too helpful, particularly the latter part. It leaves room for Microsoft to sneak its patents in and bully users/vendors/distributors of Linux, just as it did in Europe with TomTom.
“It leaves room for Microsoft to sneak its patents in and bully users/vendors/distributors of Linux, just as it did in Europe with TomTom.”SCO’s plan to appeal and continue to seek royalties on Linux gets covered and discussed in Groklaw right now. Microsoft has already moved beyond sponsoring SCO’s lawsuit against Linux and currently it puts patents inside GNU/Linux, primarily through projects like Mono and Moonlight (which are a bad idea for reasons mentioned by the FSF). Novell and Microsoft are already putting Banshee in OpenSUSE 11.3, which makes OpenSUSE users sensitive to Microsoft lawsuits and they are passing it on to other distributions like Ubuntu and alternative channels. █