Response to @PatentBuff on "Patents on the Tellie"

Some of you might've seen the recent foray into the complex issue of software patents on television. The heroic attempt was made by The Court Report on Channel 7, but it's really not the sort of discussion that's suited to a 5 minute collection of sound bites. It needs more like an hour long in depth expose to set the scene, providing suitable background explanation, and then demonstrate the total idioticy of software patents. Luckily, the US' National Public Radio did just that - listen for yourself (this devastating report has been making massive waves across the software industry over the past week or so):

AJ Park IP lawyer Matt Adams (aka @patentbuff on Twitter) did a follow-up blog post commenting on The Court Report segment cheering on his colleague - Matt Sumpter of Chapman Tripp - who took on my colleague, Don Christie, former president of the NZOSS and director of NZ's largest free and open source software company, Catalyst IT.  Matt Adam's blog post presents quite a slanted view of the software patent issue, and I decided to rebut some of his statements via his helpfully provided comment form. Unfortunately, he has somewhat ungracefully decided to ignore my comments (shown below) and has neglected (as of today, 27 July) to allow them to appear. I wonder why he's afraid of my nonsensical and perhaps libelous bluster... but hey, if you call someone a liar, and they are, in fact, making a statement which is not supported by the available evidence, then I guess it's not libel. In any case, I'm willing to take my chances.

Here're my comments - you'll just have to imagine that they're in context, sitting below his blog post:

Of course, Matt, the one key point in all of this: you are a lawyer who makes money out of exploiting software patents and all the trouble they cause software developers.

Don is a software developer, and (in theory) patents exist to provide an incentive for him to create. But he said he doesn't need them. How much more clear cut can you get.

Neither do we (also kiwi software developers). In fact, neither do 81% of IT professionals polled by the NZ Computer Society. (The watchful viewer will note that Matt Sumpter provides absolutely no evidence for his assertion on The Court Report. He's using the "proof by assertion" method for arguing, also known as "the bluff". Or lying.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, Matt, but my understanding is that there are precious few actual software patents registered in NZ, like maybe a hundred or two. I venture to guess Microsoft holds more than its fair share of them. I'll point out that the *last* thing the NZ software development profession want is a patent situation like the US or even Europe. where software companies both big and small are being held to ransom by other companies (many of whom don't even write software - they exist to sue those who do), and the entire industry is becoming untenable - software developers are leaving (and coming to places like NZ, with pending no-software-patent legislation, being much more desirable).  

I'll also remind any readers that 80%+ of NZ patents (not just software patents) are held by overseas corporations, not kiwis. Who's really benefiting from them? The lawyers.

In the end, we software developers of NZ have made our point. We do not want software patents. We've even formed an organisation ( which exists to promote the view of *kiwi* IT pros (both proprietary and FOSS), with no software patents being one of our cornerstones. We're trying to dispel the very misleading lobbying by the so called "NZICT Group" which doesn't represent NZ at all - just the self-serving view of Microsoft and their multinational cronies.

Until you can point to any sort of survey which indicates that *software developers* (not lawyers) want to be able to patent software, I'm afraid your point of view is of little account.

Why should software developers care how a lawyer feels about software patents? It's not lawyers for whom they're meant to provide an incentive. For you they're just a source of revenue. For the rest of NZ, they're just a source of wasteful friction in the national economy.

Some readers might find this whole fracas in the US of interest:

It has to do with a story by the US' Nat'l Radio equivalent NPR on software patents, investigating a company called Intellectual Ventures, which is often described as a "patent troll"... Decide for yourself.

For those with less patience, this article sums up the situation in the US somewhat more succinctly.