Labour party on software patents

The New Zealand Labour party explains its stance on the exclusion of software from patenting. It's about encouraging innovation:

20 April 2010
Media Statement

Software exclusion will encourage Kiwi innovators

The exclusion of computer software from a Patents Bill before Parliament is a step towards helping New Zealand become more innovative Labour MPs Lianne Dalziel and Clare Curran said today.

The Patents Bill proposes excluding computer software from being patentable, on the basis of it being, like books or movies or music, based on a concept and receiving protection under copyright.

"Copyright is the appropriate form of intellectual property protection. We believe that this change to the Bill isn't a big change from previous law at all. Patents are not used to protect books or music," Lianne Dalziel, Labour Commerce spokesperson said.

"The Commerce Select Committee recommendation came after receiving many submissions on the issue. The Committee heard many arguments about the rights and wrongs of patenting software. One of the major arguments was that patenting computer software will stifle innovation in New Zealand," Lianne Dalziel said.

At present software can be patented so long as it produces a "commercially useful step". But the committee, said that it accepted that software invariably built on existing software and that software patents were often granted for "trivial or existing techniques."

Communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran welcomed the select committee stance that using intellectual property in a fair and reasonable manner would promote innovation and build advanced industries.

"Imagine if a piece of music was patented and you could therefore not use the notes in that piece of music," Clare Curran said.

"I am pleased that all parties across the House appear to have considered and understood the issues sufficiently, to the extent of recommending removal of the patentability of software.

"We understand that there has been subsequent criticism of the Committee's recommendation by organisations representing vendor ICT companies that the removal of patent protection was 'worrying' as patents are considered integral to software protection.

"We believe those concerns to be unfounded and note that copyright protection for software is already the case in Europe. Our concern would be if software patents were being used to stifle competition or extort money from firms.

"The issue of who controls software that New Zealanders have developed is an important one. Copyright allows the developer to control the terms under which software is released. Patents remove that right and hand it over to a third party. Basically, software patents create a lottery around control of your own efforts.

"We are pleased that Commerce Minister Simon Power has said that the Government would support a select committee recommendation that the Intellectual Property Office develop guidelines for inventions that involve ‘embedded software’ - software that is built into a physical

“Software will still be protected by copyright, which prevents outright copying. We believe this to be sensible and the right decision," Clare Curran said.