Friday, June 10, 2011

New Zealand software innovators overwhelmingly support software patent exclusion

Matt Adams posted yesterday an opinion  about the software patent exclusion:

Opinion: Innovators reject software patent exclusion

Matt posted this on a closed Linked in group, so I thought I'd open the debate to public by posting my response here:


Your statement is rather misleading. A correct statement is:

New Zealand software innovators overwhelmingly support the draft legislation to exclude software from being a patentable invention.

We understand that a software patent system is only damaging to our ability to innovate. A patent is not a property right, it is a monopoly right managed by a government. History has proven that monopoly rights primarily responsible for:

  • Reduction of innovation
  • Increase in pricing
  • Reduction in supply of product or service that also leads to
  • Reduction of job availability that also leads to
  • Abuse of worker's rights

There is no evidence to suggest that monopoly rights (or patents for that matter), specifically in the software industry, lead to any kind of increase in investment into research and development. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true.

The list of companies you give can hardly be included as the representation of the software industry. I am sure they all are doing great work as far as software development goes and they do develop good software, however lets examine the the company interests here:

Airways Corporation

Airways is a State-owned Enterprise (SOE), a fully-owned subsidiary of the NZ Government. It is in the interest of any government body to support government control of business. Ditto – granting monopoly rights.

Air New Zealand

Not a software development company – they fly planes! Again, largely government owned.

Plant and Food Research Limited and Geological and Nuclear Science Limited

Again, both CRI, government organizations, who's focus is not software but, as their name suggests, Plant and Food Research and Geological and Nuclear Science research.

Hardly representatives of software industry who are primarily affected by the legislation.

Auckland UniServices

A vehicle to turn (largely) government funded university research into commercial (patented!) products

Fisher & Paykel Appliances

A hardware manufacturer, whose submission focuses firmly on embedded software. I believe the legislation as drafted specifically excludes software that runs inside embedded hardware from being a non-patentable. Also, the hardware widget itself is patentable.

The so-called industry bodies you quote do not represent New Zealand software companies, instead are largely funded by international organizations, some of whom have been known to abuse their monopoly power. Is it them that you propose our government should be granting monopoly rights?

Matt, the organizations you mention were invited to participate in the public debate on this matter, here is the video:

They have either declined or withdrawn their participation in the last minute. This felt like either cowardly behavior to me or an admission of support for our views.

I do welcome your courage to start this public conversation. However, opening with the debate with a misleading statement – come on!