Is TPP To Blame For The Continuing Delay In Passing New Zealand's 2008 Bill That Excludes Software Patents?

from the beginning-to-look-suspicious dept

As Techdirt reported a couple of years ago, a hard-fought campaign in New Zealand to prevent software patents being granted there seemed to have paid off, with a Patents Bill explicitly excluding them that came with the following commentary:

We recommend amending clause 15 to include computer programs among inventions that may not be patented. We received many submissions concerning the patentability of computer programs. Under the Patents Act 1953 computer programs can be patented in New Zealand provided they produce a commercially useful effect. Open source, or free, software has grown in popularity since the 1980s. Protecting software by patenting is inconsistent with the open source model, and its proponents oppose it. A number of submitters argued that there is no "inventive step" in software development, as "new" software invariably builds on existing software. They felt that computer software should be excluded from patent protection as software patents can stifle innovation and competition, and can be granted for trivial or existing techniques. In general we accept this position.
But that victory may turn out to be hollow:
Despite having been in the Parliamentary process since 2008, the Patents Bill still languishes well down in the Order Paper (No 47 as at Monday April 2), and is awaiting Parliament’s consideration of the Commerce select committee’s report, followed by the Bill’s second reading.
Although New Zealand's Commerce Minister Craig Foss tried to explain this delay in terms of "the size and complexity of the Bill and the pressure of other legislation," there is a growing concern that something more sinister is happening:
there have been rumours that the Bill has been deliberately held back as potentially relevant to concessions that may be made as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Foss's staff passed that part of our query on to Trade Minister Tim Groser’s office. Groser did not directly address the rumour and replied simply: "Progress on the Patents Bill is dependent on the wider legislative programme."
The TPP agreement is believed to require signatories to grant software patents. If the New Zealand government passed the Patents Bill in its current form, and then signed up to TPP, it would be faced with the prospect of needing to amend the legislation almost immediately -- and to justify its actions to the New Zealand public. The fear is that the current delay is so that it can sign TPP and then claim that it is "obliged" to remove the exclusion on software patents, before passing the Patents Bill.

If that happens, it would be an appalling example of how international trade agreements like TPP, drawn up behind closed doors with no input from the public, can then be used simply to override the democratic decisions arrived at through long and careful national debates.

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Filed Under: new zealand, software patents, tpp

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2012 @ 1:10am

    Message For Politicians

    Dear Pollies,

    We the people have noticed that you are disinclined to represent us, but you love to represent the big companies, especially the big foreign companies. You engage in secret meetings with them and plot against us. We are not happy about this. We expect our elected representatives to do better. So, come the next election, your political careers will be over. You are out. Have a nice time working for your new employers.

    Regards, The People

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    abc gum, 18 Apr 2012 @ 4:52am

    If software is patentable, then why is literature not?

    There has been at least one case where a generic story line patent was attempted, but shot down. What logic was used for this decision and why is it not applicable to any of the many generic software patents that are gleefully being used to bloody one's competition? Although somewhat valuable for its comedic properties, such litigation is a massive toll upon society in general and needs to be stopped.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike42 (profile), 18 Apr 2012 @ 5:32am


      A better question in my opinion is, "if software on a computer makes a new machine, then why doesn't a record on a record player, or a DVD in a DVD player, make a new machine?"
      Content is content. Mathematical algorithms are excluded from patents.
      None of this makes any sense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 18 Apr 2012 @ 7:42am

    Bend over

    Dear New Zealand residents. Thank you for being the newest members of the US territories. Bend over and enjoy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    AMusingFool (profile), 18 Apr 2012 @ 7:42am

    ironic name,

    Mr Foss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chargone (profile), 20 Apr 2012 @ 11:40am

    well, this IS the same government that reacted to wide spread (and international) protest against a copyright law change by... supposedly removing the objectionable section...

    then sticking it back in and passing the thing without any public consultation when parliament was sitting under urgency, Supposedly to deal with the Christchurch Earthquake (which is it's own great big pile of fail.)

    honestly, very little in the way of 'screwing over the common citizen in ways that don't even seem to benefit Themselves, over all' type actions from these guys surprises me anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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