back to article New Zealand softens software patent ban

New Zealand has passed legislation which partially forbids the granting of software patents – but has come under trenchant criticism by the NZ Open Source Society for abandoning local developers. Originally, the country’s new Patent Bill (which passed parliament on August 29) had been expected to ban software patents outright …


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  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    “robs inventors of the incentive to innovate and create new material if others can simply free-ride on that investment”

    I think some beloved Reg writers are consulting on the side.

    Oh no wait. This is standard self-serving pablum. Won't somebody think of the innovators dying softwareless and hungry in the nation's gutters?

    1. Christoph

      Others can only free-ride on the code if it has to be released under a FOSS licence, otherwise it is copyright.

      I.e. only if the original author HAS A FREE RIDE ON CODE HE GOT FROM OPEN SOURCE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        downvoted because ...

        FOSS code is copyrighted. I think you're confusing it with "public domain" (as defined in the USA).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Might find

      Might find that innovators and inventors and investment go elsewhere. Do you think I will work for free and let everyone copy my ideas for free?


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC 23:33GMT - Re: Might find

        No but I think that you would enjoy abusing GPL and trying to steal and sell the free work of others. At least that's what I can read in your statement.


        Re: Might find

        I just had an idea that you should depart with haste and a rocket up your butt.

        I hereby grant you a worldwide, non-exclusive license to copy this idea and put it into action.

  2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    According to National Business Review the change has been welcomed by patent lawyers – not necessarily a good sign – as holding out against the free software movement because FOSS “robs inventors of the incentive to innovate and create new material if others can simply free-ride on that investment”.

    What a crock of shit. Of course, I guess you'd expect that level of drivel from patent lawyers when welcoming a change that will give them more work (or at least reduce the level by which it's diminished).

    What they meant was

    "robs inventors our rich clients of the incentive to innovatepatent opportunities and create new material if others can simply free-ride on that investment reduces the amount of work they'll be paying us to do"

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So THAT'S what Peter Dengate-Thrush has been up to since he left ICANN.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Software patents are inevitable

    The whole world is moving away from the old purely hardware solutions to hardware+software ones.

    Stuff like software defined radio blows hardware out of equation, we even have software antennas now.

    This stuff needs as much protection as anything else. Only in some fantasy world everyone would be nice to each other and reciprocate in kind. In the real world you spend 5 years in R&D and a far east company will tear your product apart, probe the hell out of its software an and have a functional replica 6 months later.

    Europeans like to get on their high horses for a show, but look closely and their large companies are all submitting applications into other patent offices.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Software patents are inevitable

      It needs protection *from* being patented.

      Otherwise instead of innovation, we'll end up with people spending ages trying to write wacky and obscure ways to perform simple tasks because the simple and obvious way to do it has been patented (probably by a patent troll that no longer bothers to develop anything themselves because it's easier to arse around filing patents all day and suing everyone else).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC 23:47GMT - Re: Software patents are inevitable

      Software == algorithms == mathematics. Math is not patentable so don't try your logic on us.

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        Re: @AC 23:47GMT - Software patents are inevitable

        Math is not patentable so don't try your logic on us.

        Shouldn't be, but that didn't stop the patents on RSA encryption, Lempel-Ziv-Welch compression or Arithmetic encoding, not to mention the myriad other patents surrounding video and audio compression and even bloody container formats.

    3. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Software patents are inevitable

      So you think an antenna should be patentable because it has software?

      I want to be the one who patents antennas for mobile phones...

    4. Schultz Silver badge

      Re: Software patents are inevitable

      No, software patents are a dead end!

      There are many ways to program an algorithm, there are many places where the algorithm could be used, there is no good way to find which algorithms have been patented already -- hence the complexity of the system is simply too large to allow useful patents. As a result, software patents create much work for related industries, who constantly have to check a quickly growing pool of patents to ensure that none of the vaguely crafted patents conflicts with their latest innovation.

      You patent a new drug, then you can specify a clear compound and define a clear purpose when and how this drug will cure an illness. I can look up the compound before I decide to synthesize it in my company. Patents work for the pharmaceutical industry.

      You patent an algorithm cum function. How am I supposed to find the patent and to decide whether my application of the algorithm is sufficiently different from yours? There will be an army of lawyers battling it out in court and in the meantime I don't know if I am allowed to click on a hyperlink, scroll a list of phone-contacts, or use some matrix representation of my data. Please explain how this legal uncertainty will help innovation. Please explain why companies would forgo programming for their devices if they cannot patent their software.

  5. Tom 35

    he change has been welcomed by patent lawyers – not necessarily a good sign

    Understatement of the century I think...

    The problem is that a lot of the people writing the laws, are lawyers and/or are owned by corporations.

  6. Peter Murphy

    "Fisher and Pykel"

    Correction: shouldn't that be Fisher & Paykel?

    1. Jerome Fryer

      Re: "Fisher and Pykel"

      Yes. I'm amazed that anyone outside of the antipodes is vaguely aware of the existence of our local industrial giants... *cough*

      Surprising not to see Tait mentioned. Given that Tait holds a big slice of the global radio comms market and is effectively a software developer that then builds hardware to put it in, I would have thought that they may have had an opinion.

  7. Arfur Smiff
    Big Brother

    Loosed for words

    The NZ government and it's gimp politicians feel the cold, evil hands of the US again.......

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As such a joke!

    So an office software suit is not patentable "as such" but an office software running ON a computer system is totally different.

    On several occasions I've witnessed the government of my own native country so easily succumbing to the slightest suggestions coming from US government, corporations or even minor officials so I just stopped asking myself why is this happening. Instead I've sworn to never give my vote ever again, to any politician or political party. I know they will keep doing their deeds but I will not feel cheated.

    Two thumbs down for the NZ government and my sympathy for the fine people living in that beautiful land.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The NZ Open Source Society

      Why would he bother to meet with them..? You think some freetard society was going to stop him passing this law?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The NZ Open Source Society

        original msg re-edited for typo: "Why doesn't the Minister grant the NZ Open Source Society the privilege of a face-to-face meeting? And why were the meetings with IBM Microsoft kept from the public?"

        1. Jerome Fryer

          Re: The NZ Open Source Society

          Surely you can figure that out. No?

          OK then.

          "Why doesn't the Minister grant the NZ Open Source Society the privilege of a face-to-face meeting?" The who? Do they make political donations?

          "And why were the meetings with IBM Microsoft kept from the public?" Ah, now there's a nice friendly corporate with an abiding interest in our just and righteous political cause... Still, no need to mention it to the sheeple...

  10. Sirius Lee

    The office analogy is wrong

    The EU also forbids software patents except in the narrow circumstance that it is embedded and tied to the hardware. The canonical example is the software used in engine management and control systems. So it seems the NZ is only catching up.

    It seems inconceivable that wider software patenting will be allowed because that would hand a massive competitive advantage to the US and other companies able to afford obtaining their own patents there.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    How does this cause a problem for small programming businesses or individuals? If you can't patent it, just cover it through copyright!

    Or am I missing something? :P

    1. Mike007

      because if your small business wanted to make the world greated word processor, you're not allowed because microsoft already patented word processing software. or perhaps you want to be able to have your application contain more than will fit on a single screen? but scroll bars have been patented, as have buttons for switching between multiple windows, and any other even slightly obvious method of doing that.

      Copyright is "it's illegal to steal my work and claim it as yours", patents are "it's illegal to make a product that competes with mine". Patents should not apply at all to software, we have copyright protection for that!

  12. BozNZ

    Software patents DONT work in the real world outside of big corporations.

    I'm a software and embedded systems designer based in NZ working for myself (a soletrader) and working for small to medium clients (you know the mom-n-pop ones also without legal departments!)

    When a client asks me to develop software for them I generally just follow exactly whatever they want. If they ask for a dispatch scheduler say where I drop records on to a time grid to schedule them, how the hell am I to know if someone holds a patent for that, most (read all) non-techie clients by default just look at what a similar system does and asks to make it work like that but with this improvement and without this wanky bit.

    They actually never say "copy that exactly" as that would probably be copy write infringement, however with loose software patents (like the US is doing) will I be obliged to do tell them to do a patent search beforehand on every aspect of their design (and loose the work), do it myself (I wouldnt know where to start) or just do it, If I just do it who is at fault if the lawyers come a calling? me for not checking the customers design was patented or them?

    I wrote to the MP chairing the comittee a few years ago stating this, but who's going to listen to me?

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