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SA software patent opposition goes online

By   |  July 18, 2005

South African free software advocates and software patent opponents have set up a mailing list and website to co-ordinate their efforts in opposing the awarding of software patents locally.

The group, which includes academics, the Linux Professionals Association, and local free software advocates, delivered a letter to Microsoft South Africa\’s legal representative\’s on June 28 requesting the company voluntarily withdraw its patent on working with wordprocessor files in an XML format. The same patent has been applied for in a number of legal jurisdictions around the world. In New Zealand the patent office has accepted the patent application but the New Zealand Open Source Society has filed its objection to the patent.

The same patent has been rejected in the US.

The website was set up last week and the group has also established a mailing list to discuss the issue of software patents in South Africa.

Unisa academic Bob Joliffe, who has spearheaded the campaign locally, says that he has received a request from Microsoft\’s legal team requesting more information on the grounds on which he has requested the company withdraw its right to the patent. He says he wil be responding shortly.

In related news the South African parliamentary portfolio committee on trade and industry will hold a public hearing on key amendments to South Africa\’s patent law an August 2-3. The amendments are intended to give patent registrars the ability to revoke or refuse patents that are based on biological material or on indigenous knowledge. While the amendments wont immediately affect the status of software patents locally the amendments do appear to give patent registrars the power to reject a patent on its subject and content. Previously in South Africa patents were simply registered without any investigation.


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