Curran on ACTA and Patents

April 19th, 2010 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

Clare Curran blogs:

This is one of those times when the Opposition says the government’s done a good job.

Which I think it did last week in chairing the secret talks on ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) and gently pushing for transparency. I think they’ve listened to the people who are raising serious concerns about the secret trade talks and the rights of citizens.

After more than a year of sustained pressure, the countries negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) decided that the time is right to release the draft text of their work.

Kudos to the Government for their part in this decision. Not only did they obviously push for transparency, but chaired the session that finally got agreement from everyone to do this.

MFAT also hosted a reception last Tuesday where local stakeholders could meet the negotiators and discuss issues. This was a welcome initiative, and I found it quite useful. Was impressed when a couple of officials told me that they actually agreed with most of the points in the Wellington Declaration. Also had interesting chats with some of the EU negotiators over their laws, and our S92A.

Clare also blogs on the software issue:

Giving the government more credit. Twice in once day. Phew.

Now don’t let your eyes glaze over just because I’m talking about patents! I’m giving the government credit so listen up.

The Patents Bill, which is about to come back before the House for its second reading was originally crafted in 1953 it was long overdue for a redraft.

One of the most interesting changes to the Bill is  a proposal to exclude computer software from being patentable, on the basis of it being, like books or movies or music, based on a concept and receiving protection under copyright. …

And Simon Power recently announced the Government would back the Select Committee’s recommendation, which I think is the right call. This is already the case in Europe.

Many software patents have been used to stifle competition or extort money from firms. A few years back a Canadian firm, DET, sent invoices to hundreds of NZ small businesses demanding royalties as they had a patent for mulit-currency e-commerce systems. The patent was eventually disqualified, but it took considerable effort.

The NZ Computer Society has backed the proposed law change, and a poll of their members found 80% support for that stand. Their letter to the Simon Power sets out the arguments well.

Good to see an Opposition Spokesperson taking the time to say “Hey we actually think the Government made the right calls here”.

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5 Responses to “Curran on ACTA and Patents”

  1. Pete George (23,422 comments) says:

    I presume there is a fair amount of cooperation and agreement between Government and the opposition behind the scenes, the public just doesn’t normally hear much about it. It is good when agreement is openly acknowledged. Maybe MSM doesn’t bother to report it, it isn’t dramatic enough for them, blogs can be a means of getting more reality in the public domain.

    I’d much rather see a mostly positive opposition – it shows they are working for good of the country first and foremost. And a spin-off is that they can appear more capable of being the potential next government.

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  2. Rex Widerstrom (5,343 comments) says:

    Yes, it’s great to see someone stop peddling their ideological bike and think about an issue for a change. I have to admit Clare Curran’s wasn’t the first name that would have sprung to mind if asked to predict who’d do so, either, so well done.

    Now, if we can just get this new spirit of pragmatism to filter across the aisle and infect the brains of a few Ministers…

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  3. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    While I agree with the ruling that software should be covered by copyright rather than patent, we have to remember that patents have a very limited life (typically around 15 years) while copyright is normally the life of the author plus say ten years beyond the grave.

    However, the copyright can be harder to protect because the “offender” has only to prove they did not actually copy it but made it up independently. (Many cases re music are based on whether similarity is evidence of copying.

    However, I can remember when I was first asked to fund the development of software and the general rule was that software could not be protected because it was not a “product” but was simply to assist in management or quality control.

    I guess that shows my age but I predicted it would soon be subject to some form of protection because there was significant sums of money to be made in the new industry. which was King Leopold invented copyright around the time of Mozart and Haydyn.
    And Queen Elizabeth’s government invented patents to encourage persecuted guild members to come to England and bring their technology with them. Intellectual property law always follows the money. And so it should.
    I just got a useful copyright royalty cheque for 3,500 from the US publishers of my childrens’ books about the blind kitten.

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  4. Graeme Edgeler (3,280 comments) says:

    While I agree with the ruling that software should be covered by copyright rather than patent, we have to remember that patents have a very limited life (typically around 15 years) while copyright is normally the life of the author plus say ten years beyond the grave.

    Software is presently covered by both, so concerns that this might lengthen the period of IP protection and cause some detriment are ill-founded.

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  5. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    Software can be covered by both but frequently a choice is made – if only to reduce costs.

    I was rather clumsily trying to remind readers that patents are not necessarily better or stronger than copyright protection.
    IT is case dependent.
    Actually, given the rapid obsolescence of software and much hardware in the IT business I would tend to invest in the registered trademark because they last forever and are not technology dependent.
    the iPod, iMac, iPad exercise is a good example.

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