Software patents are not currently available in New Zealand, although several companies have tried to get “by the back door”, i.e. by tying the software idea they want to patent to some piece of hardware.
A software patent is a state-enforced monopoly on a idea. They exist in the US and some other countries, but not in many places including New Zealand. We don’t need or want them here. If you want some reasons, here are five good ones:
1) There is no benefit. Patents are intended to incentivise innovation by allowing an inventor a monopoly they can exploit for money. There is no shortage of innovation, however, in countries and communities that do not use software patents. The whole of Linux would be a good example.
2) There is serious harm in software patents, because they prevent others from using ideas. The whole of our technology, and in fact our whole culture as the human species, is built upon us using ideas others have had and developing them further.
3) Software patents lead to unintended bad consequences. Software patents have proved hugely detrimental in the US where they are often used for anti-competitive purposes. Just the threat of being sued over a software patent is often enough to stop a new product in its tracks, without that patent ever reaching court and being tested.
4) There is a large deadweight cost in legal fees and court costs which simply does not exist without software patents.
5) They can’t be awarded fairly. Patent offices overseas have proved incapable of determining what a valid software patent is and have consequently awarded patents on all kinds of obvious things. Sometimes these get overturned some years later after pressure from the community, but often they hang around and frustrate new software.
We don’t need or want software patents in New Zealand.