Bonum Certa Men Certa

Software Patents Booster Says the United Kingdom and the European Union Allow Software Patents

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Summary: A law firm from New Zealand is distorting facts in order to bolster its case for software patents in the country; Australian petition which strives to emulate New Zealand nearly reaches its target of 500 signatures

A J Park, an Auckland-based law firm which we previously named for its lobbying for software patents in New Zealand [1, 2], has one of its people, Matt Adams, spread some more propaganda in favour of software patents. For instance:

The aim has always been to bring New Zealand law into line with international norms - Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan and the United States all allow patent protection for inventions that are implemented in software.

This is not true. As matter of official policy, the EU and UK do not allow software patents, but there are loopholes which lawyers know how to exploit (rewriting and rewording patent applications for software such that they seem like they combine hardware). New Zealand already has a similar loophole for software patents, but the lawyers always want more. What's more, notice how Adams pretends that the majority opinion in the world is that patents on software are legitimate; this couldn't be further from the truth. There are maybe a handful of countries in the entire world which actually endorse software patents. Never let A J Park lawyers have facts stand in their way, though.

One of the few countries that allow software to be patented is Australia and Ben Sturmfels has been working to make the law over there similar to New Zealand's. He has already gotten over 400 signatures from fellow Australians (including Andrew Tridgell's signature) who oppose software patents. At the time of writing the number of signatures reached 480.

Open source luminaries Andrew Tridgell and Jonathan Oxer were among 402 signatories of a grassroots petition urging the Government to abolish software patents in Australia.

Inked on 19 July, the open letter to Innovation Minister Kim Carr brought together free software enthusiasts who claimed "software patents are dangerous and costly to business and the community".

According to the letter's author, Ben Sturmfels of Software Freedom Labs, patents were not only unnecessary, but also "actively discouraged" innovation in the software industry.

If you are Australian and have not signed this petition yet, please consider doing so now (and informing colleagues would help too). The target is 500, so Sturmfels's petition is just 20 people short. Don't let dishonest lawyers and the monopolies they represent define Australian law so as to exclude small software developers.

"Microsoft could easily have provided us with a very large part of the information required by the commission … onto a single floppy disk."

--Andrew Tridgell

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