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ICT Profession Supports Removal of Software Patent

ICT Profession Supports Removal of Software Patents, says NZCS

The New Zealand Computer Society (NZCS), NZ’s independent professional body representing thousands of ICT professionals, today announced strong support for the Commerce Select Committee’s recommendation to remove patentability of software.

Following the Commerce Select Committee’s recommendation to the Government to remove software from the Patents Act, the Society polled its members (representing ICT professionals throughout New Zealand), and found that 81% of those that had a view supported the recommendation to remove Software from the Patents Act.

NZCS Chief Executive Paul Matthews said today that “This is a big issue for the ICT sector. And whilst not scientific, this poll clearly backs up previous consultation showing widespread support from the ICT sector for the removal of software patents”.

“There are a number of reasons for and against software patents, however on balance the Society, and indeed the majority of the ICT profession, believes they are harmful to the innovation of the ICT sector and New Zealand as a whole”, Matthews said.

The Society is constitutionally required to consider issues of importance to the sector and advise Government on areas of concern and hence has written to Commerce Minister Hon Simon Power outlining some of the reasons for supporting the Select Committee’s recommendations.

A copy of this letter is available here:

“The Society strongly supports the concept of Intellectual Property and Copyright, and the right to protect property and gain commercial advantage from the creation and sale of software”, Matthews said. “However this has to be weighed against the significant damage software patents cause innovation and the far more appropriate protection provided under Copyright law”.

Conceptually, patents protect concepts or an idea whereas Copyright protects manifestation of an idea. Given the nature of software and the fact that it is built upon large layers of prior work, Patents have caused significant problems in the digital world and are unsuited to software.

“Protecting software is important” Matthews said, “in the same way that protecting movies, books and songs is important. However these all rely successfully on Copyright law, rather than Patent law, for protection. It would be ludicrous to allow patents in these areas, just as it’s illogical to allow software patents”.

“As pointed out by IP law firm Chapman Tripp recently in a release supporting patents, New Zealand is suffering from sustained and alarming Multi-Factor Productivity decline, a measure of technological innovation”, Matthews said. “However the Society sees this as actually another indication of the fact that allowing software to be patented hasn’t worked in New Zealand, hence a new approach is needed to address this issue”.

The Society also pointed out that it was not possible to run a patent system for some and an “opt-out” for others, as recently suggested, as all would be bound by the monopoly patents provided. “It’s like saying each villager can decide whether or not to pollute the village pond. Fact is, they all have to drink from it”.

“This is a complex issues, however the Society commends the Commerce Select Committee on giving serious consideration to this issue and making a recommendation based on the best interests of the New Zealand’s ICT sector and New Zealand as a whole”, Matthews concluded.


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