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05.09.13

New Zealand (NZ) Commerce Minister Craig Foss Flip-Flops on Software Patents After Public Backlash

Posted in Patents at 3:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Craig Foss
Image source: Foss forced to front over Novopay fiasco

Summary: New Zealand (NZ) is back to no-software patents policy following Craig’s admission that he was acting against the interests of NZ citizens

ON NUMEROUS occasions in the past Techrights chastised Craig Foss [1, 2, 3, 4] for advancing software patents in New Zealand. Based on this morning’s report from the New Zealand Herald, “The Government has announced a change to planned new patent rules today which has put an end to fears that computer software might be covered by new patent protection.”

To quote further: “Industry sources have welcomed the decision and the Labour Party has called it “a humiliating back down”.”

“A lot of the lobbying for software patents in NZ actually came from US companies (multinationals), some of which, like IBM, have immense influence over the USPTO.”“Commerce Minister Craig Foss has released a supplementary order paper to clarify issues around the patentability of computer programmes in the Patents Bill.”

“”These changes ensure the Bill is consistent with the intention of the Commerce Select Committee recommendation that computer programs should not be patentable,” Foss said.

“The Patents Bill is designed to replace the Patents Act 1953 and update the New Zealand patent regime.

“The Commerce Select Committee recommended in 2010 that software should not be patentable, which led to lobbying from patent lawyers and others.

“Foss then released a supplementary order paper (SOP) which changed some wording in the bill and caused industry concern that he might be reversing his decision.”

Good news for a change. “New Zealand’s largest IT representative body,” says the article, “the Institute of IT Professionals, expressed relief and said a major barrier to software-led innovation had been removed.”

Paul Matthews, the chief executive of this organisation, says that (to paraphrase) “it was in New Zealand’s best interests for software to continue to be covered through the provisions of copyright – “a far more appropriate mechanism” – in the same way movies and books were… A petition launched by the industry against software patents received over 1,000 signatures in under a week…”

Over in the United States, the debate has been warped from discussing software patentability to discussing patent trolls, or “software patent trolls” as they should be more properly called.

In the US, unlike in NZ, the corporations run the government, whereas people have little power unless they run corporations. That’s why the USPTO has almost no chance of reforming like IPONZ [1, 2]. A lot of the lobbying for software patents in NZ actually came from US companies (multinationals), some of which, like IBM, have immense influence over the USPTO. We have covered many examples of this lobbying over the years.

“It’s certainly a lot more likely that Microsoft violates patents than Linux does [...] Basic operating system theory was pretty much done by the end of the 1960s. IBM probably owned thousands of really ‘fundamental’ patents [...] The fundamental stuff was done about half a century ago and has long, long since lost any patent protection.”

Linus Torvalds, 2007

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