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IBM and MS deciding New Zealand legislation

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On May 7th and June 8th, 2010, Microsoft and IBM met privately with members of New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development (MED). They convinced the Ministry to abandon plans to exclude software from patentability, as can be seen in the new version of the text which was finally published on 28 Aug 2012.[1]

There was also a private exchange of emails between the MED and Microsft, IBM, and the Business Software Alliance in the month before and after the meeting, where those three organisations submitted policy documents.

Details of the 8 June meeting only emerged when lawyer Steve Lundberg accidentally posted a confidential meeting summary on his blog. Lundberg quickly deleted the blog entry, but the content was preserved in Google's cache.[2] The emails were then published by the government in response to a request by Peter Harrison (of NZOSS) under the Official Information Act.

The 7 May meeting

On 8 June, Microsoft's Legal Counsel wrote in an email to Rory McLeod:

I have prepared a letter setting out Microsoft's submission and also including comments from the Ministry at my meeting with Silke and Warren on 7 May.[3]

No further details are available regarding the meeting of 7 May between Microsoft and MED. The people mentioned work for the MED; Silke Radde is in charge of IP policy and Warren Hassett is in charge of the Patents Bill.

The 8 June meeting

The meeting was attended by five lobbyists:

  • Dougal Watt, IBM
  • Julie Motley, IBM
  • Waldo Kuipers, Microsoft
  • Brett O’Riley, CEO NZICT (pro software patent group funded by Microsoft, IBM, and other mostly foreign companies)
  • Peter Wren-Hilton, Pingar (an NZ SME)

The pre- and post-meeting emails involved IBM, Microsoft, NZICT, the BSA, but no contribution from Wren-Hilton of Pingar or any other NZ company. The meeting summary notes that Wren-Hilton made a statement in favour of software patents, but also notes that "it appeared that he was not actually intending to obtain patents in New Zealand".[4]

The meeting was attended by three people from the Ministry of Economic Developement (MED):

  • Rory McLeod, Director – Competition, Trade and Investment Branch
  • Silke Radde, overall IP policy
  • Warren Hassett, responsable for the Patents Bill

The released emails

The government published a fifty-page PDF document containing the pre- and post-meeting email correspondance[5] in response to a request made under the Official Information Act. The request was submitted when details of the 8 June meeting were accidentally leaked by a lawyer.

(Sorting the table by date works.)

Pages Date Author Sent to Notes
1 p1-3 20100700 July? MED Peter Harrison (NZOSS) Cover letter for the whole document
2 p5 20100608 8 June Waldo Kuipers (MS) Rory McLeod (MED) Email mentioning 7 May meeting.
3 p7-10 20100608 8 June Waldo Kuipers (MS) Rory McLeod (MED) Letter endorsing NZICT policy recommendation (included)
4 p11-17 20100500 May NZICT Rory McLeod (MED) The NZICT policy recommendation (7 pages)
5 p19 20100603 3 June Brett O’Riley (NZICT) MED Email
6 p21 20100602 2 June Brett O’Riley (NZICT) Minister Simon Power Email
7 p22-28 20100602 2 June NZICT Minister Simon Power policy recommendation (7 pages, duplicate of item N°4)
8 p29 20100603 3 June Warren Hassett (MED) Brett O’Riley (NZICT) Email, and reply, agreeing to include BSA letter in 8 June meeting
9 p31-37 20100526 26 May Robert W. Holleyman (BSA) Rory McLeod (MED) Letter with policy recommendations
10 p39-42 20100629 29 June NZICT MED Letter with proposed next steps
11 p43-44 20100625 25 June Warren Hasset (MED) MED Meeting summary "Note for file", says NZICT "were happy that their concerns had been met" (are software patents back?)
12 p45 20100623 23 June Rory McLeod (MED) Brent Webling (Parliament) Email, says no change, they will implement "the Select Committee's approach"
13 p46 20100622 22 June Brett O’Riley (NZICT) Rory McLeod (MED) Email apologising for the leaked meeting report
14 p47 20100623 23 June Brett O’Riley (NZICT) Rory McLeod (MED) Email suggesting how to deal with the leak
15 p48 20100622 22 June Brett O’Riley (NZICT) Rory McLeod (MED) Email more about the leak
16 p49 20100621 21 June Brett O’Riley (NZICT) Steve Lundberg (leaker) Email and reply where Lundberg reassures O'Riley that all the evidence is gone. [ha!]

So, on 23 June, McLeod said there would be no change and they "would be implementing the Select Committee's approach", and on 25 June, Hassett reported that NZICT (pro-swpat) "were happy that their concerns had been met" (p44, last paragraph). There seems to be a misunderstanding somewhere.

What they lobbied for

The result which Lundberg reported in his blog entry, was that Minister Simon Power agreed to redraft the legislative proposal to be like the European Patent Convention - which, as IBM and MS know well, equates to allowing software patents.

Details of the key documents

Can you help? Any help is welcome.

NZICT policy document

(pages 11-17, and seemingly repeated on pages 22-28)

BSA policy document

(pages 31-37)

Meeting summary by Hassett

(pages 43-44, by Warren Hassett (MED))

NZICT proposed next steps

(pages 39-42)

Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links