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New Zealand Bans Software Patents

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the not-everything-is-bad dept.

Patents 150

Nerdfest writes with news that New Zealand has, after going back and forth a couple of times, finally banned software patents. From the article: "New Zealand has finally passed a new Patents Bill that will effectively outlaw software patents after five years of debate, delay, and intense lobbying from multinational software vendors. Aptly-named Commerce Minister Craig Foss welcomed the modernization of patents law, saying it marked a 'significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand'. An IITP poll of members at the time showed 94% of those with a view were in favor of banning software patents."

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Opportunities (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697003)

6) When you have to piss, the best place to do so is:
A) On the side of a freezer.
B) In the toilet.
C) In a bush.
D) On a tree.

Correct answer: A

actually, no (5, Informative)

i_hate_robots (922668) | about a year ago | (#44697011)

article title, and summary for that matter, are not exactly accurate. here's why (in great detail). http://www.fosspatents.com/2013/08/new-zealand-parliament-adopts-uk.html [fosspatents.com]

Re:actually, no (0, Flamebait)

OzPeter (195038) | about a year ago | (#44697043)

Mod up parent .. I was going to post the same

Re:actually, no (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697135)

Huh? You link to Florian Mueller and Fosspatents.com... okay you've lost me as he's well know for being a bought and paid for shill of the software patent industry and patent trolls. I wouldn't believe ANYTHING he writes as it's normally 100% WRONG!

Re:actually, no (2, Informative)

i_hate_robots (922668) | about a year ago | (#44697355)

I understand having strong opinions about Mueller, but if you read his argument I think he is making a valid point in this case, which he backs up with the actual text of the bill (so it's probably not 100% inaccurate). As commenter raymorris pointed out below, all this law states is that adding "on a computer" to a process doesn't automatically make it a new patent. It doesn't broadly and completely abolish software patents in general.

Re:actually, no (4, Informative)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about a year ago | (#44697581)

Known shill = untrustworthy source of information. Even a broken clock is right twice a day - that doesn't mean it's ok to start believing it when you want to know what time it is. You ignore it and seek out an unbroken clock.

Re:actually, no (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44698453)

Known shill = untrustworthy source of information. Even a broken clock is right twice a day - that doesn't mean it's ok to start believing it when you want to know what time it is. You ignore it and seek out an unbroken clock.

Unless it perpetually indicates 5:00 PM - time to check in at the Tiki Bar.

Some of the biggest liars I've ever known occasionally tell the truth, otherwise they'd function like some Bizarro World inhabitant.

Re:actually, no (1)

maestroX (1061960) | about a year ago | (#44699827)

Even a broken clock is right twice a day - that doesn't mean it's ok to start believing it when you want to know what time it is.

gem

Re:actually, no (5, Informative)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about a year ago | (#44698763)

You mean this text, Part 2 - Patentable inventions: "We recommend amending clause 15 to include computer programs among inventions that may not be patented."

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0235/14.0/whole.html [legislation.govt.nz]

Yeah reading is a real bitch.

Re:actually, no (0)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#44697943)

Huh?! You post as Anonymous Coward... ok, you've lost me as ACs are well known for being shrills and trolls and generally lame asses! I wouldn't believe ANYTHING ACs write as it's normally 1000% WRONG!!!!!!!

Re:actually, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698481)

Well, I don't put much credence in anybody's comments, unless they make sense. And yes, trolls are usually AC but shills usually register an account. However, some of us are on computers that we can't log in to slashdot on (I'm not the AC you responded to).

Re:actually, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698605)

Close but no cigar. In reality only some of the AC posts are written by Florian. Thus the misinformation ratio is necessarily smaller than in the case where you know that it's definitely written by mr. F.

Re:actually, no (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697945)

What if I told you that your bias against him is as bad as his bias for software patents?
What if I told you that refusing to hear an argument because of who is giving it is as bad as refusing to hear an argument because you don't like it?

Re:actually, no (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698171)

What if I told you that ...
What if I told you that ...

I'd tell you to go find a giraffe with hemorrhoids and fuck it until your ears bleed (hopefully from it kicking you in the head).

captcha: looser

Re:actually, no (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698489)

I would tell you that are have no sense of discrimination or critical thinking and are probably badly informed on nearly every topic. I do not have the time to thoroughly evaluate every argument on every topic in which I am interested, nor do you. I must find some way to filter just the high quality material. If I can read, self-research and evaluate an argument from someone who is reputed to be fair and insightful or from someone who is reputed to be a biased shill I am going to choose the former every time. Does that mean I miss out on good arguments sometimes? I'm sure it happens, but I'm still going to choose to spend my time on something with a 90% chance of high quality outcome as opposed to 10%.

If you are wasting your time reading poor quality material hoping for the "diamond in the rough" you are not spending time reading high quality material. Your knowledge on the topic is going to suffer greatly as you are constantly poisoned by poor arguments and information that is not being counteracted with high quality ones.

In short, your opinion on any topic is not to be trusted.

Re:actually, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699365)

If you are wasting your time reading poor quality material hoping for the "diamond in the rough"

Poor quality material != material generated by a paid shill with a purpose to misinform you.

Stumbling in the dark can be fruitful, listening to known liars cannot.

Re:actually, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699745)

If you are wasting your time reading poor quality material hoping for the "diamond in the rough" you are not spending time reading high quality material. Your knowledge on the topic is going to suffer greatly as you are constantly poisoned by poor arguments and information that is not being counteracted with high quality ones.

In short, your opinion on any topic is not to be trusted.

Says the person reading Slashdot comments :-P

Re:actually, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697201)

great citation, so just about every country cannot resist corporate lobby/brides!!! It seems the way this whole thing worked was to favor certain companies over others. Very disappointing, not from NZ but it would have been a game changer..

Re: actually, no (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#44697219)

While ZDNet is not the greatest off sources, the one you referenced is fat leads reliable. I'd be interested in seeing commentary from a better source than both.

Re:actually, no (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44697437)

Because a known shill says so?
So are you Florian or did he pay you to post this?

Florian Mueller, really? (5, Insightful)

linuxguy (98493) | about a year ago | (#44697483)

If you knew who Florian Mueller was, you would never quote him on anything.

Re:actually, no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697655)

really?

so a bill passes, saying patents on software aren't allowed. And the only source you have to quote for "software patents are being allowed" is the #1 most unreliable target ever?

please do some actual research, because what you did is as much a disservice to slashdot as it is to common sense.

What this does tell me, however, is that if Florian is pissed and bitching, then the opposite is guaranteed to be true. This means NZ has successfully hampered software patents.

Re:actually, no (4, Informative)

defconpuck (1313737) | about a year ago | (#44697687)

Why don't you read the actual bill?

Under "Other exclusions":
"(3A) A computer program is not a patentable invention."

http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2008/0235/14.0/whole.html#DLM1419230 [legislation.govt.nz]

That version is three years old (5, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44697823)

You're looking at the 2010 version. The version that passed replaces that line with saying that it;s not patentable if the only thing new about it is "on a computer".
As passed, new inventions are new inventions - whether computers are involved or not.

Re:That version is three years old (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#44697959)

Well then, not a radical improvement but still a small one. The US patent system would do well to have the same change.

Re:That version is three years old (2)

thoromyr (673646) | about a year ago | (#44698117)

And you are looking at the 2012 version that lacks the examples and explanations. It isn't a new invention if it is just software -- it must be part of a greater whole, such as an embedded device.

But why take my word for it?

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130509/09013323019/new-zealand-bans-software-patents-as-such-tries-to-pin-down-what-earth-that-means.shtml [techdirt.com]

The article you linked quotes exactly what I said (3, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44698273)

The Techdirt article you've cited to try to "prove me wrong" quotes the bill as follows:

"where the actual contribution of an invention lies solely in it being a computer program, it is ineligible for patent protection... it will not be possible to obtain a patent for an invention that involves or makes use of the computer program if the sole inventive feature is that it is a computer program".

In other words, exactly what I said.

Re:The article you linked quotes exactly what I sa (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44698475)

The Techdirt article you've cited to try to "prove me wrong" quotes the bill as follows:

"where the actual contribution of an invention lies solely in it being a computer program, it is ineligible for patent protection... it will not be possible to obtain a patent for an invention that involves or makes use of the computer program if the sole inventive feature is that it is a computer program".

In other words, exactly what I said.

Where this gets really fun is when the argument is presented that "the program" and "the computer" are analog, rather than digital. A hole you could pilot an aircraft carrier through.

Re:The article you linked quotes exactly what I sa (1)

fritsd (924429) | about a year ago | (#44699487)

Maybe because an analog computer is usually not a general purpose computer (except maybe for the Difference Engine [wikipedia.org] , but in the picture on the Wikipedia page even that looks quite inventive to me).

Read more carefully. The bill's examples are oppos (5, Interesting)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44698563)

> "It isn't a new invention if it is just software -- it must be part of a greater whole, such as an embedded device."

I see how to you got that idea, but read more carefully. What the examples are intended to show is that:

a) assume the washing machine has no new mechanics, so the washing machine is not patentable.
b) putting a computer program into the washing machine ALSO isn't patentable. That's the point of the law.
c) the computer chip may contain a program which IS a new invention and that program may be patentable.
d) it's patentable not BECAUSE it's a program, it's patentable because it's a new invention - being software is irrelevant

Re:actually, no (2)

MarkvW (1037596) | about a year ago | (#44697787)

Read the article closely. It's a load of bullshit.

He's trying to spin the language "as such" to mean something, but he doesn't say what he thinks it means or doesn't mean.

Seems to me, NZ is saying that a software--device combination might still be patentable, but a software-only patent is not patentable.

The guy does look to be a shill.

Sorry, read it and weep, they're history (5, Informative)

almechist (1366403) | about a year ago | (#44699643)

For crying out loud, they did indeed ban software patents, and if you don't believe me you can read all about it in that bastion of liberal OSS-using freethinkers, Forbes. Here's the link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/reuvencohen/2013/05/08/new-zealand-government-announces-that-software-will-no-longer-be-patentable/ [forbes.com] The critical part of the law is not the subsection everyone is arguing over, but what comes before it, which seems to me unequivocal about what is no longer allowed:

"(1) A computer program is not an invention and not a manner of manufacture for the purposes of this Act."

This guy Florian Mueller who may or may not be a corporate shill has got everyone confused by focusing on the legal subtleties of a subsection, but the fact remains that computer programs by themselves are no longer patentable, because the law states they are not considered to be inventions! Don't believe the FUD.

Crap ... (4, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44697017)

So they've disallowed software patents, but allowed more extensive spying. Dammit New Zealand, you need to pick one.

Though, I will say that any company looking to develop software for a domestic market will be happy about this -- you likely can't export because the patents would be in place most everywhere else.

I'm sure right now there's an entire branch of the US government planning regime change, since the US has pinned their hopes to copyright and patents. It is, however, nice to see other countries saying "what's in it for us?"

Re:Crap ... (2)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#44697371)

So they've disallowed software patents, but allowed more extensive spying. Dammit New Zealand, you need to pick one.

If it makes you feel better, they didn't actually disallow software patents.

Re:Crap ... (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44697565)

If it makes you feel better, they didn't actually disallow software patents.

Oddly enough, no, no it doesn't.

Re:Crap ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697675)

so what does this actually do?

difficulty: no citing florian.

Re:Crap ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44700281)

RTFA. yes, it disallows software patents.

Re:Crap ... (5, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44697399)

So they've disallowed software patents, but allowed more extensive spying. Dammit New Zealand, you need to pick one.

Apparently, the spying stuff required complicated algorithms they didn't want to pay for.

Great, great decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697027)

now it's time for US to ban those patent trolls.... and really create "free competition"

Re:Great, great decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697335)

Well, there's "free competition" between the patent-troll law firms.

What does it cost to relocate there? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697031)

Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Re: What does it cost to relocate there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697101)

One ticket to the underground.

OMG (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697047)

A government does something that genuinely benefits its people.

Re:OMG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698221)

I know. What's next? Actually serving the people? Keeping your campaign promises? Not being worthless lying assholes all the time?

More like, you know how a stopped clock is right twice a day? This is just the same basic idea. It's a fluke. But don't worry. Our billionaire scumbucket overlords will fix this, soon.

about damn time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697073)

about damn time

Important because it's the first example (5, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about a year ago | (#44697191)

This is really important because it's the first time that a country has explicitly banned software patents, with knowledge of what it's doing.

Other jurisdictions have legislation which says software can't be patentable, like the European Patent Convention, but because it was written before software patents became a problem there are debates about the intention of the text.

Thanks to New Zealand, we'll have an example of a developed economy banning software patents, so there will be proof that it doesn't make an economy collapse etc.

More background here:
* http://en.swpat.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Patents_Bill_235 [swpat.org]
* http://en.swpat.org/wiki/New_Zealand [swpat.org]

Re:Important because it's the first example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44700389)

India was there first :-)

https://www.google.co.in/search?q=india+software+patents

Re:Important because it's the first example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44701561)

That was why he said "a developed economy.

Oh snap!

mod up my anus (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697195)

with pleasure!

I wanted to see what Groklaw had to say... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697227)

I wanted to see that Groklaw had to say about this. But thanks to the NSA etc. I can't.
This makes me both happy (for New Zealand) and sad ...

key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new inv (5, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44697253)

Since there is no such thing as a "software patent" in law, it's important to understand what has been changed, and to be clear about what could or should be changed. Here's the key wording of the new law. It's not patentable if:

      "A claim in a patent or an application relates to a computer program as such if the actual contribution made by the alleged invention lies solely in it being a computer program."

In other words, if it's not a new invention, just an old invention with "on a computer" added to the end, it's not patentable. That is, if it's not a new invention if made of wood, it's still not new when made of silicon (or magnetic tracks).

I'm about as big a defender of "software patents" as you'll find on Slashdot and that to me is obviously right to me. If it's not new, it's not new.
Putting it on a computer doesn't make it new. Duh and yay for them for explicitly stating what should be obvious.

What they didn't change, and really can't as a practical matter, is they did not declare that a new invention magically becomes "not new" if it uses a computer.
If I invent a way to resurrect dinosaurs ala Jurassic Park, and they key invention for doing so is a gene sequencing computer program, that's a new invention.
The fact that I use software for it neither makes it new nor makes it "not new".

Re:key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#44697543)

What they didn't change, and really can't as a practical matter, is they did not declare that a new invention magically becomes "not new" if it uses a computer.
If I invent a way to resurrect dinosaurs ala Jurassic Park, and they key invention for doing so is a gene sequencing computer program, that's a new invention.
The fact that I use software for it neither makes it new nor makes it "not new".

That's the key.

Because in the current IP framework we have, software patents are necessary. Here's an example.

I create a machine to do something in a new and novel fashion. I do it using mechanical parts and gears (which are an implementation detail - the individual gears and such aren't really new or novel, just the way the machine works overall). I should be able to get a patent for that.

Now, I rip out the gears and put in motors and software to do the same thing the gears did, except instead of a bunch of gears doing what I invented, it's a computer program replicating the functionality. Is it suddenly unpatentable just because it's software rather than hardware?

Of course, the real solution to the IP mess is ot realize that software is its own IP category in and of itself. Copyrights and patents were easier before software - copyrights affected creative works that people did to communicate with other people. Patents affected things. You write a book, a song, a play, whatever and you copyrighted that because it was meant to be enjoyed by other humans. You can't really patent it because enjoyment isn't a utility. You can patent the printing press used to create the book, the machines used to record and play back, because those are things.

But now software comes and muddies the waters - because software isn't created to be normally enjoyed by others, but to be understood by machines. But it's created by humans and can have utility, which screws things up horribly.

Hence the need for new IP classification - because we're bending copyright and patent laws in ways they really never were meant to in order to accommodate software. I mean, think about it - what does it mean to 'copyright" software - is it the source code? Or the binary? Should the binary even be protected because it was a mechanical transformation? Instead software can be protected in its own category - we can have algorithmic protections used to protect algorithms (what is normally patented), and implementation protections used to protect specific implementation (copyrighted) including mechanically transformed versions. These terms can be remarkably short because of the speed at which software obsoletes itself - algorithms really only need 5 years tops, and the actual implementations, 10 years. (10 years is ages in software, but 5 years is much too short for stuff to lose protection. 10 years ago, the early versions of Windows XP and early 2.4 Linux kernels would be completely open. But not the later ones still protected. I don't think there's much contemporary hardware that can even use such old software)

Re:key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697725)

I'd add a clause that extends the implementation protection (say, by another five years) if you offer the complete source code to the public (having the source code available is a benefit for the public, therefore it makes sense to give an extra bonus). The source code would have to be published before the original 10 year period ends.

Re:key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#44698095)

I think that the source code should have to be included as part of the patent application process. So that it can be examined to verify how novel the "invention" really is. And also to ensure that the code really does what the patent claims. The code should then be held in escrow (so as to allow them to keep it closed source for the time of the patent) and after the patent expires, the code should be available along with all the other patent documentation. A patent is of no use to the public good if nobody can actually use it after the patent expires.

Interesting. I think the opposite. (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44698391)

I think that the source code should have to be included as part of the patent application process. So that it can be examined to verify how novel the "invention" really is.

That's interesting. I think the exact opposite. I think that line of thinking, that using new code to do the same old thing makes it new, is exactly what created the problem. I think it would be better to know whether something is new by NOT mentioning if it's on a computer or not. Just say what it DOES. Does it do something new? If so, great, if not, buh-bye. I don't care if you use gears or code to do it.

Re:Interesting. I think the opposite. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44699707)

Should the metallurgy of a widget need taken into account to see if the widget is patent-able?

Software is not the metal, it IS the widget. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44700151)

Take the actual source code away from the program and you're left with some fairly obscurely doped materials of high quality and cost with the ability to be a really bad door-stop.

The software is the absolute equivalent of a technical drawing of a machine.

Without a tech drawing of the machine being patented, there is nothing there to patent.

Without a source code list of the software being patented, there is nothing there to patent.

Re: key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698439)

Math textbooks are not created to be enjoyed by other people, but they do have utility for other people. Yet no one would think of patenting textbooks. Copyright works just fine.

Likewise, copyright works just fine for software. No new IP category required.

A math text book doesn't do anything new (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44698801)

Obviously patents are for new inventions. Something that does something new, or does it in a new, better way.
A math textbook isn't a new invention, it doesn't do anything new. The first person to invent a book could have patented it.

Google's self-driving car may very well have something new in it. That new invention is patentable. After they invent it and patent it,
they might build it. When they build it, they might build it from steel, glass, rubber, magnetic disks, or brass. Maybe two or three different version made from different materials. Does it matter what material they use to make it? Why are magnetic particles somehow special?

Re: A math text book doesn't do anything new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699725)

A math textbook could most certainly do something in a new way. That still shouldn't make it patentable. In general, patents should not be granted for ideas. They are, all the time, but they shouldn't be.

Re:A math text book doesn't do anything new (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44699893)

Yes, materials can matter.

"invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine,
manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent.""

Start here:
http://www.uspto.gov/patents/resources/general_info_concerning_patents.pdf [uspto.gov]

agree in principle, it's not software patent (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44698491)

I think you're absolutely correct in the first part of what you said, which is why the second part makes no sense to me. You said:

> I create a machine to do something in a new and novel fashion. I do it using mechanical parts and gears (which are an implementation detail -
> the individual gears and such aren't really new or novel, just the way the machine works overall). I should be able to get a patent for that.

> Now, I rip out the gears and put in motors and software to do the same thing the gears did

It's the invention itself that's patentable. Whether you build a particular version of the invention from gears (metal) or Gears (software) makes no difference -
you might well do both. You could have a crank up gear version that sells for $3 and an electronic version of the same invention for $30. It's the invention
that's patented, not a particular build of it. We agree on that, right?

So why a whole new class of IP separate from patents. Patents cover "useful things". Programs are useful things. I don't see any reason to treat things differently whether they are built of wood, silicone, or silicon.

I do also agree on shorter patent terms, by the way, because the rate of technological change has increased. Technology didn't change nearly much from 1880 - 1900 as it did from 1980 - 2000. Not just with computers - biomedical technology, energy technologies, we're in a faster paced world now, so faster paced patent expiration makes sense. (Also MUCH faster copyright expiration.)

Re:agree in principle, it's not software patent (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44699741)

"It's the invention that's patented, not a particular build of it. We agree on that, right?"
wrong. A common mistake on /.

in a nut shell HOW the thing is down is what is patent.

If you have a automated door opener that use pressure, and I have one that uses a motion sensor they both open the door, but that are separate patents and invention.

Opening the door isn't patented, how the device did it was.

Business method patents should not be allowed. That would fix the fast majority of patent issues.

Re:key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

Z_A_Commando (991404) | about a year ago | (#44698501)

You raise a good point. However, the utility of something that's patented is that it (ostensibly) solves a problem. It's a way for an inventor to say "I/we figured out how to do X in a way that's novel and unique to me/us". In the spirit of the patent, the actual method for solving X is detailed in such a way that its uniqueness and utility can be independently verified by experts. The actual patent application is public domain so other inventors can figure out another way to solve X or make sure they don't violate someone else's patent inadvertently. The opportunity to skin the cat differently provides a spur to innovation. As an incentive to sharing this knowledge, the government provides a time-limited monopoly for the inventor to leverage the patent for financial gain. Moreover, a patent cannot be granted for a problem that does not have alternate solutions.

In the case of software, the "problems" that the solutions solve have gotten too large or broad. Instead of a single novel way for compressing audio, you get a method for end-to-end streaming music that gets patented. We may be better served if the patent were denied on the basis that the problem is "too large or broad" and the patent needs to be broken up. A good (and requisite) car example of this "too large or broad" application would be Tesla patenting their entire Model S sedan under a single patent. The components of the Model S solve a multitude of problems (propulsion method, vehicle management, secure APIs :), etc.), but patenting the entire car would never happen, and, in fact, the car's components are individually patented. The same standard should be applied to software. Break the software up into its component parts and have those patented individually or not at all. (I realize this would likely result in a deluge of patent applications, but forcing the source code for the solution to be included in the patent would make a huge difference here.)

A completely separate problem are that many patents are granted and the inventor(s) simply sit on the technology. Such a failure to actively attempt financial gain from a patent should be grounds for invalidating the patent, but that's a separate vein entirely.

Software works in an abstract world (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699701)

Software works in an abstract world, just like mathematics. Unlike real processor designs (or, indeed, even FPGAs), the software is working in a fictitious reality where everything is set to work as it was written to work.

Just like maths.

Therefore, just like maths is not, even if absolutely a new idea, patentable.

Here's the thought: if you have your program that you think so very very unique, I rewrite it in FORTH. The only thing I can have copied is the maths. And the maths is not patentable.

Therefore my program is not infringing on your patent. Otherwise, to have my program infringe, you'd have to be patenting either the maths (which isn't patentable) or any way of getting the result (therefore patenting the problem, or the solution, but definitely NOT the method, which is the ONLY thing that patents apply to).

So, yes, your computer made of a motor and software and plain stepper motors rather than gears, is not patentable because the combination is not expressing the method of solution, only the software is. If you want a patent on it, patent it as gears set in a complex motor, where you have to design the gears to get around the REAL WORLD problems of stiction, gear ratio hogging, the ability to make consistent gear teeth, the ability of the gear to maintain torque, feedback, creep, and all those other things that you have to discover the best way to run around which makes your method unique and worthy of patent.

clarifying myself "sole claim being it is SW" (4, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44697665)

I made it less clear than it could be by quoting too much from the clear. This law says it's not patentable if:

"if the actual contribution made by the alleged invention lies *solely* in it being a computer program."

So in other words, for any alleged invention, take out the words "software" and "computer" from the description.
Does it still sound like a new invention? If so, it's patentable. If not, it's not. It's either new or not, and it doesn't matter whether it's
made of smashed wood or powdered iron.

(Note that both "physical" machines and software machines can be made of either. My mom created some of her software by punching cards made of wood pulp, much as a carpenter would work wood to build some new invention. I created my first software by manipulating bits of iron to form machines.)

Re:clarifying myself "sole claim being it is SW" (1)

Rob Y. (110975) | about a year ago | (#44698197)

So does that completely exclude simulations of real-world objects? Is a progress meter no longer patentable because the 'invention' is implementing a meter as a computer graphic/animation (i.e. 'on a computer')? Is Apple's scroll bounce back no longer patentable because there are real world devices that bounce when you scroll past the last item?

If so, this is a fairly big blow against nuisance GUI patents at least.

Yes, I believe so. Perhaps a NEW method of simulat (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44698339)

I believe so, and I believe the bounce back patent is a good example - they didn't invent bouncing.

On the other hand, a meter could display the result of some new invention. We know progress meters are almost useless, especially in software but in
other areas as well. The fact that they've built 90% of the a new stealth fighter's parts doesn't mean the project is nearly complete, given that they've
completed the bolts but not the computer system. If someone INVENTED a new thing to measure progress accurately, that new invention would
be new whether it was displayed on a stick or on a screen.

Re:key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about a year ago | (#44698735)

If I invent a way to resurrect dinosaurs ala Jurassic Park, and they key invention for doing so is a gene sequencing computer program, that's a new invention.

No, for two reasons. First, the "gene sequencing computer program" is nothing more or less than a mathematical function transforming abstract input data to abstract output data. Mathematical functions are not new; you don't invent them, you discover them. As non-patentable subject matter, it ought to be impossible to infringe on any patent simply by describing a mathematical function to someone, whether in traditional mathematical notation or in the form of a computer program, or by evaluating it, whether mentally, with pen and paper, or with a computer.

Second, you can't resurrect dinosaurs using nothing but a computer program. Merely running a program doesn't change anything in the real world. The "key invention" would be some kind of biological cloning process, not "a gene sequencing computer program", even if the program gives you useful data for the process. If the cloning process already existed, and you just lacked the data to make it work for dinosaurs, then too bad—there's nothing new to patent. At least you get to make some cool dinosaurs, assuming whoever holds the patent on the cloning process doesn't stop you.

Gears and levers = multiplication (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44699031)

I'm afraid you're entirely theory falls completely flat when you realize that gears and levers are devices for doing multiplication.
ANY machine can be described with a mathematical function. Therefore, if you were correct that anything which can be described as a mathematical function is not patentable, machines are not patentable. Machines are patentable, and carry out functions, ergo you are mistaken.

What is true is that one cannot patent the fundamental laws of math or other "natural laws". You can, however, patent novel USES of natural laws.
You can't patent gravity, you can patent elevators. You can't patent division, you can patent the GIF method for image compression.
You can't patent friction, you can patent new tire inventions.

Re:Gears and levers = multiplication (3, Informative)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about a year ago | (#44699617)

...You can't patent division, you can patent the GIF method for image compression...

I think you are mistaken here under the New Zealand law. This change means that the GIF algorithm is no longer protected by a patent. You could build a dedicated device that compresses images using the GIF algoritm and get a patent for that device but your patent wouldn't stop someone else from writing a program that uses GIF compression for doing the same thing. It also wouldn't stop someone else from making a similar device but has a different form factor, controls, etc. Your patent now only stops people from actually copying your device or copying it and making only superficial changes.

Even more important, the New Zealand law means that the overly broad software patents that are common in the U.S. are not valid there. Extending the above example, the patent for GIF would probably be written as describing a method for compressing image data without loss. Some patent troll would then attempt to extort royalties from anyone using any lossless image compression algorithm (and even those using lossy algorithms if they thought they would win or get a settlement).

Cheers,
Dave

So do that for a clock. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44700485)

Go on, a simple clock. Look at the patents on time mechanisms used in clocks (expired now).

Look at what was patented. Methods of fixing the problems that are not part of the problem specification: "A thing to measure equal intervals and sum their elapsed count". That, basically, is all a clock is, right? And if you made it software, then it would no more be a novel clock than someone using a pendulum.

However, this is where it gets different.

In the software world, everything is artifical. The interval of time BY DEFINITION is the CPU clock tick. Just add them up.

In the real world, even if you defined it as so many state changes of a Caesium atom (SI definition in Metrology), you have the problem that your mechanism has to manage to do that count and at a price/size/expense point that works. So you get a simple pendulum. Except there's thermal expansion. So you find a way to compensate. And THAT gets a patent.

Then you want a clock that can move with the observer rather than stay at home.

So you find a way to get a regular beat without a pendulum. Spring casement. And you get a patent for THAT.

But you now have a bigger thermal issue and the simple solution you had for the pendulum isn't good enough. So you find a way to correct for it or invent a new alloy that is much less affected by thermal expansion over the range it will have to operate. And you get a patent for THAT.

What, precisely, are the softare versions of these problems for which a patent was allowed? NOT ONE OF THEM got a patent on "Telling time on a Clock face".

Re:So do that for a clock. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#44701107)

OK, so you decide to solve the problem of thermal expansion by measuring the temperature and calculating in software the effect of it on the period of your clock, and correct, still in software, the time accordingly. Patent worthy or not?

Re:key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

quarrelinastraw (771952) | about a year ago | (#44699219)

That's right. Your gene sequencing computer program should not be patentable because it's an abstract idea. That's independent of whether you implemented that abstract idea on a computer.

GP says, "you may be right" (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44699453)

You be right, my example may not have been the best. I haven't looked carefully at "abstract idea" and how that applies to patents (or doesn't).

> That's independent of whether you implemented that abstract idea on a computer.

Indeed. If it's not patentable, it's not patentable. Not if built of wood, not if built of magnetic iron dust (on a hard drive).
If it is, it is. What one example is made from doesn't matter.

Re:GP says, "you may be right" (1)

quarrelinastraw (771952) | about a year ago | (#44699589)

I haven't looked carefully at "abstract idea" and how that applies to patents (or doesn't).

Hi, thanks for the response.

I'm a mathematician and I honestly find a lot of the "all algorithms are math" argument to be rather weak for reasons I'd be happy to go into. I think "abstract idea" is the real issue. The best analysis of the situation that I've seen so far is Ben Klemens' "The Rise of the Information Processing Patent", the pdf of which can be found here http://www.bu.edu/law/central/jd/organizations/journals/scitech/volume141/documents/Klemens.pdf [bu.edu] .

Re:key wording of the law, "on a computer" != new (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44699677)

Except it doesn't. IN the US, you can add to an existing patent. If that addition is it's ot all done in software thats fine, and how it should be.

Software patents parent the problem. Method patents are, and software patent issues are a symptom of that issue..

Are you saying a digital clock isn't an improvement of a analog clock?

You might a well say anti-gravity cars aren't patenable because we have cars.

IP (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697333)

inb4 all patents are Imaginary Property.

Re:IP (1)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#44698205)

They are. :)

Re:IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44700217)

So if you combine some real property with some imaginary property, does it become complex property?

imports from NZ (0)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about a year ago | (#44697359)

i would like to import these and similar politicians that actually work to make things better for people rather than corporations to the US. even if everything else they do is horrible, i dont see how they could possibly fuck up the US more than our won politicians have.

Looks like RMS... (0)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#44697467)

RMS could now move to New Zealand - the first country to ban software patents. Or he could move to China, where software patents are banned by de-facto practice - w/ every company happily copying whatever they feel like.

kudos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697757)

well done New Zealand!

Re:kudos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698003)

well done New Zealand!

this needs redacting. no kudos for NZ

FTUSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44697859)

You'll never see that happen in the good old fucked up USA.

Pirate Mentality (1)

micahraleigh (2600457) | about a year ago | (#44697891)

They want to legalize piracy (i.e. FOSS) because they can't make software people want to pay money for.

I pity /. readers who do not understand what is so painfully clear.

Re: Pirate Mentality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698101)

I pitty you for not knowing the difference between piracy and FOSS

Re:Pirate Mentality (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about a year ago | (#44698815)

That you don't know how to write. Yes that is painfully obvious.

Re:Pirate Mentality (1)

fritsd (924429) | about a year ago | (#44699723)

They want to legalize piracy (i.e. FOSS) because they can't make software people want to pay money for.

I'm sure people would pay good money for Weka [wikipedia.org] , except they don't have to because it's licensed under the GPL.

Re:Pirate Mentality (1)

micahraleigh (2600457) | about a year ago | (#44700147)

I can't see them charging money for Weka and getting a lot of customers to line up.

I'd much rather pay money for the britannica software.

And if I had to decide between paying money for the Wikipedia content or the Britannica content ... obvious.

Oh Oh (1, Interesting)

deviated_prevert (1146403) | about a year ago | (#44698073)

The cost of MS office site licenses, adobe photo shop and a swack of other US written software just went up in New Zealand. Considering Microsoft cannot patent the essential xml word processing core that locks in cloud based MS office users and neither can the cloud xml routines in Photo Shop that lock the customer to both Microsoft and Adobe for off site file storage and or remote processing routines. This was how this whole thing started with Microsoft applying to patent the cloud xml hooks in Word and New Zealand balking at the idea as being not unique enough to warrant a monopoly patent on cloud based word processing. Funny but Google has been doing cloud based word processing for years, now Microshaft comes along and tries to patent it. ROLF, problem is they already succeeded in North America and everybody ignores the fact.

Re:Oh Oh (3, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#44698361)

Nobody uses MSFT anymore. They just use open source software suites.

At least in New Zealand.

(caveat - I am a published author in New Zealand and Australia under another legal name)

Does this prevent a "computer product" patent also (1)

Phoeniyx (2751919) | about a year ago | (#44698719)

Does this law prevent a "computer product" patent "comprising" a recordable medium containing instructions that when executed by a computer processor perform the steps of: a) [do some obvious stuff] b) [do some more obvious stuff] c) [do some more stuff people didn't both writing down on paper b/c it was so damn obvious to anyone in the field] Just wondering... (PS: for those who don't know patent lingo, the preamble in my first sentence is how patent agents in some countries get around "computer program" exceptions... I kid you not)

what is a 'software patent'? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44698833)

I sure hope that they can define it. Software is a means -- one means -- to realizing a technique. Either the technique is novel, and useful, and patentable, or it's not.

Steal the work of others (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44699423)

New Zealand, Land of Thieves.

Re:Steal the work of others (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44699975)

Copyright still in effect? No worries then.

And that isn't all (3, Informative)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | about a year ago | (#44699703)

Here is the list of what can not be patented -
Clause 13 - Patentable inventions
An invention is a patentable invention if the invention, so far as claimed in a claim,—
(a)is a manner of manufacture within the meaning of section 6 of the Statute of Monopolies; and
(b)when compared with the prior art base—
(i)is novel; and
(ii)involves an inventive step; and
(c)is useful; and
(d)is not excluded from being a patentable invention under section 14 or 15.

Section 14 - Inventions contrary to public order or morality not patentable inventions
(1)An invention is not a patentable invention if the commercial exploitation of the invention, so far as claimed in a claim, is contrary to—
(a)public order (which in this section has the same meaning as the term ordre public as used in Article 27.2 of the TRIPS agreement); or
(b)morality.
Examples
The commercial exploitation of the following inventions is contrary to public order or morality and, accordingly, those inventions are not patentable:
an invention that is a process for cloning human beings:
an invention that is a process for modifying the germ line genetic identity of human beings:
an invention that involves the use of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes:
an invention that is a process for modifying the genetic identity of animals that is likely to cause them suffering without any substantial medical benefit to human beings or animals, or an invention that is an animal resulting from such a process.
(2)For the purposes of subsection (1), commercial exploitation must not be regarded as contrary to public order or morality only because it is prohibited by any law in force in New Zealand.
(3)The Commissioner may, for the purpose of making a decision under this section, seek advice from the Mori advisory committee or any person that the Commissioner considers appropriate

Section 15 - Other exclusions
(1)Human beings, and biological processes for their generation, are not patentable inventions.
(2)An invention of a method of treatment of human beings by surgery or therapy is not a patentable invention.
(3)An invention of a method of diagnosis practised on human beings is not a patentable invention.
(3A)A computer program is not a patentable invention.
(4)A plant variety is not a patentable invention.

(5)For the purposes of subsection (4), plant variety has the same meaning as that given to the term variety in section 2 of the Plant Variety Rights Act 1987.

So if I am reading this right, not only are software patent trolls throwing a fit, but Monsanto probably is to

SInce /. user dont understand (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44699851)

even the basics of what can be patented:
"invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine,
manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent.""

Start here:
http://www.uspto.gov/patents/resources/general_info_concerning_patents.pdf [uspto.gov]

Finally some sanity (1)

amoeba47 (882560) | about a year ago | (#44699955)

As a NZ developer, this news makes me sooooooooooooooooooo happy. That is all.

Only outlaws will have patents (3, Funny)

chrismcb (983081) | about a year ago | (#44700801)

"So what are you in for?"
"I patented some software..."
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