The latest article by Pat Pilcher on software patents is somewhat misleading. I actually agree with Pat (and have quoted him before) that software patents should not be allowed. But the issue is about how the current law is depicted.
Pilcher wrote in the Herald:
At the end of the day, should software become patentable in New Zealand, the future winners will most probably only be large law firms and the multinationals who can afford them. In the US over the last 20 years, The estimated cost to the US economy of patent litigation has been an estimated half a trillion US dollars.
This is very misleading, as it strongly implies software is not patentable at the moment. It is. Apart from the normal tests for obviousness etc there are no restrictions at all on software patents.
The law is going to change, and it will ban at least some software patents. So in fact the change in the law will be the opposite direction to what Pilcher implies.
Now what the dispute is about, is the wording of the exemption. As has been described in the past, many worry the Government’s proposed wording which is based on European (and I think Australian) law will still allow some software to be patented. That is a legitimate concern and I prefer the wording backed by the Open Source Society and put forward as an amendment by Clare Curran.
But that doesn’t change the fact that even with the Government’s wording, the law is going to change from all software being patentable to most software not being patentable.
There is a good Wikipedia article on the pros and cons of software patents.