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Public discussion on SA patents

By   |  January 12, 2007

Freedom to Innovate South Africa (FTISA) is holding a software patent workshop on January 19 to discuss software and business patent methods in South Africa. The discussion is open to the public and will be hosted by the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI) in Pretoria.

FTISA is a non-profit organistaion that promotes and assists in the development of patent policy, legislation and practice benefiting South Africa’s national interests. Their goal is to support the development of the local software sector through the creation of legislature that allows software innovation and protects FOSS, while opposing patents that hinder development and innovation.

Organiser Bob Jollife feels that this discussion is long overdue, saying he is excited for the opportunities that this offers. He emphasised the diversity of the people involved, describing it as a “weird and wonderful mix”. Rather than just being a gathering of Linux geeks, in order to get a variety of view points to stimulate debate, the discussion will also include economists, lawyers and various representatives from large multinationals.

The day’s lineup includes:

– A presentation on the South African development context by Rasigan Maharajh
– An outline of FTISA’s position on software and business patent methods in SA by Bob Jolliffe followed by an open discussion
– A presentation on software patents in the international context by Prof Chris May followed by a structured discussion
– A presentation on software in different jurisdictions by Dan Ravicher folowed by a discussion
– A presentation SA software patents and the different perspectives of firms such as Novell, Obsidian, Antfarm and Deloitte Consulting
– A public debate on “Software & Business Method Patents in SA: Resolving Contradiction?”

For the official invitation with a full line up, short biographies of the speakers and details to get there, go to

The next day will see FTISA develop a strategy document. This is only open to FTISA members, but anyone can join upon payment of a R100 annual subscription.

Issues that FTISA intends to address include:
– a concrete and positive position on software and business method patents to promote to government, the private sector, the public and the international community
– an organisational strategy which ensures the ongoing sustainability, growth and relevance of FTISA as an entity
– a litigation strategy to guide FTISA’s approach to revocation proceedings against existing software and business method patents which have been wrongly granted

Anyone wishing to attend is asked to email (and copy to to RSVP. A contribution of R100 per head to cover snacks and refreshments would be appreciated but not obligatory.


One Response to “Public discussion on SA patents”

  1. Wesley Parish
    January 24th, 2007 @ 12:00 am

    I\’m afraid this is a bit late for the workshop, but Freedom to Innovate South Africa (FTISA) is welcome to make use of this comment I wrote for Groklaw:

    \”Secondly, I\’ve actually attempted to ask Bill Gates this question myself using the, but he has declined to answer me – the patent system is a method of divulging a stated advance in the state of the art in some technical field. It has certain beneficial features which have made it attractive to retain – among them the requirement that all useful features of the advance, are published, thus preventing the guild-based trade secrets system that hampered technical advances during the later Middle Ages. The GNU Project\’s General Public License also makes similar requirements on those advancing the state of the art using various software projects\’ source code, published in such a way that prevents a similar trade secrets system to that of the later Middle Ages guilds.

    Thus the GPL operates in the manner the patent system was originally intended to act. Why then should we need the uncertainties, complications and trade barriers that the software patent system establishes? When we have a very efficient system already operating?\”

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