Australia to follow New Zealand's lead on changes to software patent laws

The movement to pass new laws doing away with software patents continues to pick up steam. Following on the heels of action by the government of New Zealand to abolish software patents, the Open Source Industry Australia (OSIA) is urging the Australian government to do the same.

By a vote of 117 to 4, New Zealand passed legislation banning software patents, updated its 60-year-old patent bill with a new law that "introduces a patent system suited for the 21st century", according to Craig Foss, New Zealand's Commerce Secretary.

The OSIA has issued a submission to the Australian Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) urging the abolition of Innovation Patents and the exclusion of computer software from patents altogether. The submission is a response to ACIP’s current review of the country's  Innovation Patent System.

“When the news broke late August that the New Zealand government had just legislated to abolish software patents we were inundated with statements of support from our community", according to OSIA Chairman, Jack Burton. The open source industry in Australia wanted to know how to foster similar progressive steps e in Australia.

In addition to New Zealand's recent ban on software patents, the European Union (EU) has been debating similar moves for more than a decade. Brazil, Russia, India and China are also beginning to get on board with the idea.

Jack Burton said that there is a strong grassroots movement across Australia pushing to disallow software patents.  “The OSIA board understands that patents were intended to promote innovation, but the reality is that software patents are doing just the opposite."

Contrast these changes already taking place in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and other parts of the world with what is happening in the U.S.   A recent GAO study laid out in detail that the majority of U.S. patent lawsuits now occur in the software realm.

In addressing the America Invents Act (AIA) passed by Congress back in 2011 reforming U.S. patent law, President Barack Obama has said that U.S. "efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go."

Patent trolls have no intention of using the patents, but instead hope to make money from the lawsuits that they file.  An individual case often begins with a perfunctory infringement complaint, or even a mere threat of suit, which is often enough to encourage settlement for the nuisance or "threat value" of the suit by purchasing a license to the patent.

In June 2013, President Obama publicly addressed the issue of patent trolls and directed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to take a number of new actions to help further stem the surge in patent-infringement lawsuits tying up the court system.

The President has also asked Congress to pass laws that would have an even greater impact on curbing 'abusive' lawsuits from patent trolls. It will take time, but expect to see further changes to existing patent laws in the U.S. and around the world.  Stay tuned!