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In historic vote, New Zealand bans software patents

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#1 +Frank B.

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 04:34

In historic vote, New Zealand bans software patents

Patent claims can't cover computer programs "as such."

 

A major new patent bill, passed in a 117-4 vote by New Zealand's Parliament after five years of debate, has banned software patents.

 

The relevant clause of the patent bill actually states that a computer program is "not an invention." Some have suggested that was a way to get around the wording of the TRIPS intellectual propertytreaty, which requires patents to be "available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology."

 

Processes will still be patentable if the computer program is merely a way of implementing a patentable process. But patent claims that cover computer programs "as such" will not be allowed.

 

It seems there will be some leeway for computer programs directly tied to improved hardware. The bill includes the example of a better washing machine. Even if the improvements are implementedwith a computer program, "the actual contribution is a new and improved way of operating a washing machine that gets clothes cleaner and uses less electricity," so a patent could be awarded.

 

One Member of Parliament who was deeply involved in the debate, Clare Curran, quoted several heads of software firms complaining about how the patenting process allowed "obvious things" to get patented and that "in general software patents are counter-productive." Curran quoted one developer as saying, "It's near impossible for software to be developed without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of patents granted around the world for obvious work."

 

"These are the heavyweights of the new economy in software development," said Curran. "These are the people that needed to be listened to, and thankfully, they were."

 

The head of New Zealand's Institute of IT Professionals, Paul Matthews, celebrated the passage of the bill, tweeting: "Software patents are now disallowed in New Zealand. #Historic #Awesome #Yay." Matthews also noted that the new law will only apply to new patent applications, so existing software patents will continue to stand in New Zealand.

 

It's an open question whether other countries will take up New Zealand's example. An outright ban on software patents in the US seems unlikely given the large corporations—in tech and other sectors—that would oppose such a move. However, this year has been one of unprecedented concern about "patent trolls," with six bills introduced in Congress addressing that issue in the last several months.

 

Source: Ars Technica




#2 Growled

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 14:23

Thank god New Zealand still has a little sense, in this crazy, mixed up world.



#3 ThreadAbort

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 14:26

It will take forever for that to happen in America.  But that is great news!! 



#4 HawkMan

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 14:50

I don't agree with banning software patents. They need to be changed yes. But contrary to the pirate party nutties, I do think software patents in some form is important. But it needs to work very differently from today.

#5 B0mberman

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 15:04

I don't agree with banning software patents. They need to be changed yes. But contrary to the pirate party nutties, I do think software patents in some form is important. But it needs to work very differently from today.

software patents serve to turn knowledge and information into a monetary commodity, which is pretty backwards. Creating business models of knowledge is not only harmful, and contributes nothing to the advancement of our collective intellectual well being. I get that some people work hard on software patents, but ultimately what do you stand to gain from patent....what money? What if scientists patented all their theories, knowledge and data collection..... would we ever know anything about something without having to cought up money for it? and better yet serve in some stupid legal tugg of war? 

Sure I get people have the need to be rewarded, but patents aren't the way to go.



#6 HawkMan

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 19:44

All patents serve to turn knowledge and information into a monetary commodity.

 

If I come up with a genious solution to a problem, and I present this solution to a company but they say, no we don't want to buy it from you, you're saying it's then fair play for them to just use it anyway.

 

Software patents have their place and use, it's just that today, they are given way to easily on stuff that isn't "solutions" but mere ideas and thoughts. 



#7 Growled

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 19:53

I think a lot of times we get copyright vs patents a little confused.

 

http://www.law.washi...opyvpatent.html

 


Over the past few decades during which software development has become more and more sophisticated, courts have pointed out the difference in purpose between copyright and patent laws. The purpose of copyright is to protect particular expressions of an idea not the idea itself. Broader protection for software, as provided by patent law, must meet the standards of novelty and nonobviousness in order for that type of intellectual property protection to apply.



#8 HawkMan

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 19:59

I think a lot of times we get copyright vs patents a little confused.

 

http://www.law.washi...opyvpatent.html

 

Copyright is all well and good, but it wouldn't cover the use case I described. 



#9 Andre S.

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 20:01

Any reason for saying a computer program isn't an invention, other than circumventing patent definition?



#10 +Majesticmerc

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 20:19

I don't have anything per-se against software patents, but I certainly take issue with what is considered grounds for a software patent.

 

Complex algorithms that are unique and specific I think should be patentable, as I'd consider them an invention. It also offers the creator some return on investment in the case that the algorithm took a long time to create. However, IMO the following should not be patentable:

 

  • Whole applications. An light bulb is patentable, but you can't patent everything between the switch and the bulb as well.
  • Incremental improvements. Just because some guy spent a couple of days refining part of an existing algorithm doesn't make it unique software.
  • Most user interfaces. There may genuinely be a case to be made for a unique and/or ingenious (and therefore patentable) user interface, but I haven't seen it.
  • "On the internet". You can't just append ###### to an existing invention and suddenly make it re-patentable.


#11 +Majesticmerc

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 21:40

Additionally:

 

The standard patent lasts 20 years, which is an eternity in this circuit, and can do nothing but hold everything back. In my opinion the maximum length of a software patent should be between 6 months and 2 years, depending on the nature of the patent.

 

All software patents should be FRAND. In the case that I want to use your invented algorithm, you should not be legally able to withhold it for the sake of preventing competition. Licence the patent and let competition happen. The patent mess in the US is detrimental to competition, and the big players (AAPL, MSFT, GOOG, ORCL) are patenting stuff like crazy like it's some kind of arms race, leaving the little guy completely screwed.

 

Then of course there's the legal minefield of what consists "intellectual property". If you create an algorithm, and then patent it, and then I create that same algorithm without being aware of your implementation, is my idea your property?

 

It's pretty easy to see from looking at the pitfalls why New Zealand has abolished the practice. Why deal with all this, when you could just throw in the towel and free up a lot of resources all round?