back to article New Zealand to bar software patents, again

The software patentability row in New Zealand, which broke out last August over the wording of new patent legislation, seems to have been settled with the release of new legislation by the government. In a move that's been welcomed locally by the IT industry, the government has clarified the original intention of the …


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  1. Shagbag
    Thumb Up

    Common sense Down Under

    "New Zealand's largest software exporter, Orion Health, has backed the move, telling the New Zealand Herald that software patents are counter-productive and 'get in the way of innovation'."

    One for common sense.

    1. g e

      Re: Common sense Down Under

      What beggars belief is that it was partially based on *UK* case law which implies we still have some sensible laws in this green and pleasant land place when it comes to big business

  2. Ray 11


    Having a minister named Foss is a good sign...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FOSS

      Sadly the rest of his record is less than stellar.

      Anon because I work in the stone cold heart of the Wellington bureaucracy

      1. Gavin King

        Re: FOSS

        There's a heart in the Wellington bureaucracy? That's news to me.

  3. Pomgolian


    ....that is all.

  4. Big-nosed Pengie

    Why, oh why, is NZ so much smarter than Oz?

    1. ijustwantaneasylife
      Thumb Up

      NZ thinking

      I can't comment as to whether they're smarter or not, but in the two years I lived there I noticed that the politicians did seem to mostly listen to the populous as a whole. Might have something to do with the fact that they're re-elected every three years instead of every five like the UK?

      1. Charles Manning


        It is mostly due to the fact that we're a really small country.

        Until I moved a few weeks ago, I knew my MP personally. Not as friends or anything, but I know where she lived etc and she would help out at public working bees etc. It is good to see your MP working hard pushing a barrow full of compost. That's not the sort of thing you'd get in most countries.

        Most of the MPs have an electorate office where you can pop in and visit. Most will respond well to emails etc that you send to them.

        It's really hard for an MP in NZ to hide or play the them-vs-us game. As a result, they're very accountable and NZ has the most transparent government in the world.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Naah

          Most politicians can be seem shifting barrows full around over here.

          Verbally shit and in cyberspace money.

          I like the idea of the NZ arrangement but business would never let that happen to a democracy like ours.

          1. DanceMan

            Re: business would never let that happen to a democracy

            Most of the countries we live in are not democracies, but plutocracies.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. TonyR

            Re: Naah

            Which would be why Dotcom has been locked in custody, then promptly deported....

          2. elderlybloke

            Re: Naah

            Well LarryF54 , the fact is that the USA is big and we are small.

            You know the principal that might is right.

            On top of that we don't have an Air Force any more, & the Navy and Army are just remnants of once magnificent services.

            God Defend New Zealand.

        3. Youngone Silver badge

          Re: Naah

          I'm not sure that last statement is true, (but it might be). I am reminded however of seeing the current Prime Minister in public a year or so ago, and when a voter called him a series of extremely rude, (and fairly accurate) names, the security detail made no move to prevent access, they just moved a little closer to prevent a physical altercation. I thought that was very well done.

    2. A J Stiles


      Australia is not a democracy. They do not even respect the basic right to abstain from voting.

      A savvy politician could easily game the system and get elected on the compulsory vote alone.

      1. Adam 1

        Re: Obvious

        At least compulsory voting stops disproportionate influence going to a bunch of nutters. That said, the law states that you have to attend the polling booth and get you name marked off. If you truly don't care, just fold it in half and drop it in the box.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obvious

          If it's compulsory attendance, but not compulsory to vote, then that's ok. Some people may wish for the "non of the above" option, and should be given the ability to show this.

          1. lglethal Silver badge

            Re: Obvious

            People do get to do whats called Donkey voting which is where you delibrately falsify your vote, i.e. leave the ballot blank, put a zero for every candidate or as one friend of mine does draw a picture of a donkey taking a dump on the ballot.

            The number of Donkey votes is actually counted so you can actually see how many people are making that form of protest, in certain areas its disproportionally high...

        2. A J Stiles
          Thumb Down

          Re: Obvious

          "At least compulsory voting stops disproportionate influence going to a bunch of nutters" -- No, it doesn't.

          When people are voting for the wrong reasons, they may well be voting for the wrong candidate. If they happen accidentally to produce a valid vote, then that will be counted, even although it arguably shouldn't (since it doesn't represent what anyone sincerely believes).

          Just writing an increasing series of numbers down the ballot paper -- or up the ballot paper -- creates an accidentally-valid vote which will favour the first -- or last -- candidate listed on the ballot paper.

          Abstentions outnumber votes in most countries; so compulsory voting is (potentially) giving disproportionate influence to probably the *worst* possible group of people to give influence to.

          1. Adam 1

            Re: Obvious

            Who am I to judge the reasons that another person has for picking their representatives in government?

            But a government who wins the most seats where everyone votes has a good mandate. In a close contest or hung parliament this becomes important.

            I think it crazy that so much money is spent just getting your base to attend a vote rather than convincing the electorate at large as to why you are the best man/woman for the job.

  5. mIRCat
    Paris Hilton

    If only common sense was contagious.

  6. wowfood


    Come on USA, time to take initiative and steal this law from NZ, you know you want to.

    Think of the amount of time and energy saved, think of the amount of headlines newspapers will no longer have to repeat print.

  7. Piro Silver badge

    Just like that..

    If New Zealand can do it..

  8. Charles Manning


    The NZ domestic market for NZ-developed software is incredibly small and almost all of the software developed in NZ is exported to jurisdictions with software patents. Thus us kiwis will still have to abide by foreign software patents.

    Of that domestically consumed NZ developed software, almost all of it is database/desktop software for corporates/government. Very little is the sort of thing that gets encumbered with patents (OS software etc).

    Thus it is just a token gesture at best. When the celebratory champers has been consumed people will realise it has almost no practical benefit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfortunately...

      But does it work internally for them? While taking note of external export laws on software, is it better for them internally?

      1. Charles Manning

        Re: Unfortunately...

        Perhaps you miss my point.

        Having worked in NZ as an embedded software developer for over 20 years, every product I have worked on has ended up being exported.

        NZ is a very tiny market. Almost none of the software developed in NZ is only going to be shipped within NZ (except for stuff like custom database applications for an NZ-only retial chain or a government body - stuff that will typically not be subject to any patents). Anything else (ie stuff that will have to be exported at some stage) will still have to be free of patent infringements otherwise it can't be sold overseas and is not worth developing.

        Let's for example say I work on the design of a nifty new NZ designed and manufactured washing machine that uses an SD card and uses FAT file system to log washing info Two fingers up to MS and their dumb FAT patent... yes, we'll show them.... Except that 95% of those washing machines get exported - mostly to patent honouring countries. MS will block the sale of that product. outside NZ.

        So, again, it might seem all David vs Goliath, but it really isn't. As a software developer I still have to honour the patent laws of the markets my product sells into and no NZ manufacturer only manufactures for the NZ market.

        Thus, for practical reasons, this is just a token gesture. It really has no impact on software development in NZ.

        At least with NZ's other ground-breaking laws (gay marriage etc), some people get to change their lives because only the domestic situation matters.

        This patent law means nothing until the major markets come on board.

        NB Again, I am not saying this was a dumb decision, just that it has no practical impact.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Unfortunately...

          No - if I was still developing commercial software for a living (and NZ made proper warm beer) I'd be seriously be considering getting on the next plane.

          I'd rather have the pissingly small market of NZ taking 100% of my product than a fucking huge market where I spend 99.999% of my time worrying if some wanker has patented page 2 of volume 1 of Knuth and then loosing any noticeable profit paying some lawyer to keep my arse safe.

          1. dajames Silver badge

            Re: Unfortunately...

            No - if I was still developing commercial software for a living (and NZ made proper warm beer) I'd be seriously be considering getting on the next plane.

            I had a lovely pint of Speights Old Dark last time I was in Dunedin -- not chilled to tastelessness at all -- it did cross my mind that all would not be lost if I tore up my ticket home ...

            <-- This icon is the wrong colour.

          2. Youngone Silver badge

            Re: Unfortunately...

            A bottle of Spitfire cost me $NZ4.95 last week in Auckland, and about the same in pounds last year in London, so you might be better off here after all. A decent pint of proper English ale in a pub is a bit harder to find however, not impossible tho'. Come and have a look, we'd love to see you.

        3. lightweight

          Re: Unfortunately...

          Actually, Charles, I think you greatly underestimate the value of the local market. Also, you miss the other major rationale for the industry railing against software patents: most of our patents (80%+) are held by foreign corporations. They could (and have done) patent widely used algorithms and file formats (they have attempted to do so - XML) and then use those patents to kill innovative kiwi companies before they get to the size where they can afford to export. They do this routinely in the US already, and in other jurisdictions. This legislation means that NZ can become an incubator for small firms who can build their businesses in a relatively protected environment until they can enter various export markets with a bit of mass and capital behind them. I'm already aware of several US and Canadian software companies who are moving to NZ to benefit from our less septic and less litigious environment.

          1. Charles Manning

            Re: Unfortunately...

            "kill innovative kiwi companies before they get to the size where they can afford to export"

            Well I don't buy that only large companies export.All the small companies I am associated with export.

            So how does it help NZ companies to build up their technology in a patent shelter, then when they "get big" they can't turn into an exporter because all the tech they've developed is not useless to them?

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Well bugger me the US joins in too!

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