Software Patents: things are livening up

A bouquet goes to the chief executive of the New Zealand Computer Society for his letter to the Minister (pdf).

A brickbat goes to the director of strategy and innovation at Intergen for his intemperate comments about those who took the time to make a submission to the Select Committee.

Once more: there is no “fundamental right” to a statutory monopoly in the form of a patent. A patent is a privilege, not a right. Societies grant patents because, on balance, we judge that the social good exceeds the harm. We generally accept that monopolies are harmful, so the onus is on those wishing to acquire such a monopoly to make their case.

As Eben Moglen has noted of a recent US court decision:

[This] shows the beginning of a broader front in the judicial determination to reign in patenting that has gone too far, turning information that should be free to all into property exclusively held by a few.

And as the Computer Society’s letter reminds us:

we do not see the software patent issue as an Open Source vs Proprietary Software issue

I continue to wait for those in favour of software patents to present a reasoned, evidence-based argument in support of their position. A position which appears to be faith-based is not, in my view, a sound basis for policy. To quote Eben Moglen again, we need compelling reasons before we “can tolerate the widespread creation of statutory monopolies on ideas”.

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