I appreciate that readers outside New Zealand may not be able to access the link. So I thought I would summarise the main points raised in the most recent episode of The Court Report.
Matt Sumpter of law firm Chapman Tripp made some good points during his appearance in Chapter 3 on the show. He explained the difference between patents and copyright(s). He acknowledged that our New Zealand Patents Act is out of date and that it has been under review for over 10 years.
He referred to the proposal to exclude computer programs from patentability as “mad”. The proposal will put us out of step with our major trading partners such as Australia, the United States and Europe. A significant part of the software industry is very supportive of patents remaining available in this industry.
Software is everywhere says Sumpter. Software makes your car run in the rain. Software makes the telephone network run. Software drives navigation systems. It makes hearing aids work. It makes dishwashers work. It does all sorts of things. People who write such software deserve a return on investment.
Software is no different from other fields of inventions. There is no principled basis for distinguishing between software and any other inventive endeavour.
Open source enthusiast Don Christie agreed that mechanical objects that include software should be patentable.
Where they differ is Christie’s view that software is simply mathematical algorithms. Software development, says Christie, is just like writing a book or creating music. All it involves is typing lines of mathematical algorithms.
I’m not sure I agree with Christie on this last point. Airways Corporation of New Zealand Limited for example is on record as saying “Many of the systems we develop require five or more years of considerable research and development and an investment which runs into the millions of dollars to see the systems through from initial concept to a commercial product … Patent protection is important to enable us to realise the benefits of our investment, both in New Zealand and overseas.”