Posts Tagged sustainability

A trial with zero percent success proves trap’s worth Peter Kerr Mar 18

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 Any business that gets itself into a financial position to employ others is, by default, doing OK.

If that operation starts with a completely new product, to survive long enough to (at least) thrive, is even better.

So it is great to hear of pest and predator control company Goodnature coming up trumps in an extensive DOC test in a two-year project at two trial sites at Boundary Stream Mainland Island, Hawkes Bay, and Onepu, Northern Te Urewera.

We’ve set a whole new standard for rat control with traps,” says Goodnature head of marketing and market development Stu Barr.

For us and DOC the trial results are exceptional and beyond the expectations set at the start of the project.

To put it in perspective, the pass mark for the trial was 5%. To get 0% at both trial sites has set a whole new standard for future developments. At 0% all the rats are gone and therefore all bird and native species vulnerable to rat predation are going to thrive and grow in numbers.”

This is a level of control previously only achieved by toxins.

Goodnature’s A24 automatic humane kill-traps for rats and stoats resets itself up to 24 times powered by a 16 gram compressed CO2 canister. A bolt to the animal’s head results in an instant kill.

The Goodnature A24 rat and stoat trap

And while the innovative design of the traps (which, in a larger version also kill possums) was part of the design team’s approach, over time the Wellington company’s found much of its ongoing research and development aimed at perfecting longlife lures to attract the pest to its death.

Stu Barr says the constant trap and lure improvement were vividly seen when the 2013 technology version traps were deployed in 2013.

The humane killing technology, along with pest-specific lures, is now being use in more than 15 countries around the world.

As well as further rat control, Goodnature’s automatic resetting traps are helping eliminate the introduced mongoose in Hawaii, and mink in Scandinavia.

All of this hasn’t happened overnight of course.

Goodnature, founded by three mature design students, started in 2006.

But there’s now eight people onboard – and you can only be an employer if you’re making money.

The constant trap and lure improvement is part of the company’s design philosophy.

The trial alongside DOC, and more importantly the 100% kill statistics all help Goodnature position itself as a viable est control method beyond poisons.

Undoubtedly too when Goodnature started, they considered themselves in the pest killing business. Over time they’ve found themselves just as much in the pest-attraction business – as the ‘kill’ part of the trap itself is increasingly honed to perfection.

It is this eye for constant improvement that is helping the company grow.

Good luck guys, keep up the good work.

PledgeMe co-flounderer’s words of wisdom Peter Kerr Jan 14

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 You’ve got to give a bit of kudos to someone who calls themselves the chief bubble blower and co-flounderer (yes, spelling is correct) of a company.

Whether you call New Zealand’s first crowd-funding platform PledgeMe a startup is debateable, as the 18 month company is still alive, kicking and more importantly growing.

Said, co-flounderer Anna Guenther gave a short presentation to Wellington’s Entrepreneur’s Club recently, highlighting the mostly ups, and a few of the learnings for PledgeMe that has so far raised $2.1 million across 470 successful fund-raising projects.

PledgeMe’s business model is a 5% success fee commission (with an additional 2.8% to pay for credit card fees). And while of course earning your way is important, you get the feeling Guenther’s absolutely enjoying enabling mostly community projects with an average size of $3500. Apparently 49% of all projects receive their funding target.

I suspect she’s excluded from this average size figure their most successful fund-raising – a $207,000 Christchurch sculpture initiative (matched by Westpac, and with an additional $180,000 sent in by cheques!).

The oldest successful fund-raiser was 82 year old Stu Buchanan, a jazz band leader who crowd-sourced (including from three generations of students he’s taught) enough money to put together his first ever album. He ticked it off his bucket-list!

Guenther gave the following wisdomettes for anyone starting up. Being an internet wizard, she’s also put these points up so you can check it out on Dropbox.

  • Choose the right partner
  • Have a hard conversation at the start around a shareholder agreement. The discussion can focus around the who’s idea it was, the writing of the business plan, other expertise brought to the table. What are people going to be contributing now and down the line?
  • Ask for help – a coffee or beer can be empowering in the knowledge and networks that result
  • Sometimes you have to jump (code is never ready!). Have a launch party, then you have to begin
  • Build networks without expectations. In 12 months, you never know, those contacts could ignite
  • Surround yourself with smart people. You don’t want to be (or think you are) the smartest person in the room
  • Design. The best dollars spent are at the start – and that means making the brand look good and people wanting to connect with it
  • You can’t compare your feelings inside, with others’ outside website. In other words, what other startups show as their exterior view, in no way matches the undoubted angst and sometimes indecision that goes on inside. (Guenther acknowledged Rowan Simpson’s advice on this one)

Geunther also encouraged taking any opportunity to speak at other peoples’ events, launches, meetings as a way of spreading the word/love.

When asked if she thought that the recent launch of an NZ-oriented Kickstarter would affect PledgeMe, she felt no.

“We’re different, and we believe that local is important to us,” she says.

“But indeed, if anyone wants some advice about putting a project up on Kickstarter, or on PledgeMe, give me a yell.”

Plenty of traps along the way for pest eradicators Peter Kerr Oct 29


No one ever said that creating and perfecting a resetting, toxin free pest trap was going to be easy.

The guys at Goodnature would be the first to agree, but, 12,000 or so sold traps later, the Wellington company that kicked off in 2005 is still trucking, slowly getting bigger.

A sticK story 18 months ago outlined how three Victoria University design school mature students bootstrapped their way to developing two unique traps that use compressed CO2 to power the possum, rat and stoat killing piston that instantly kills the pest.

They’ve since grown to eight people, and are continuing to learn lessons and modify their systems.

Goodnature’s head of marketing and market development Stu Barr says the company still has a design-led philosophy (and, as what is an attract and assassinate system these traps look good).

Stu Barr

As is almost invariably the case when creating injection moulded componentry that is assembled into a final unit, Goodnature had a few teething troubles with its new A24 rat & stoat trap.

A24 rat & stoat trap

“We had to resolve some moulding and technical flaws,” says Barr. “The reliability wasn’t up to where we need it to be.” Those challenges have now been overcome.

What has particularly been the team’s focus are new, highly effective lures, which ideally last a long time.

“We’ve developed a new food-based rat lure and possum lure and now working on non-food based lures and different delivery mechanisms for them all,” says Barr.

“We’re also working on a few simple things that support the traps in the immediate future, and other big developments that will take us a few years to perfect.”

And while New Zealand is the home base for Goodnature, the market opportunity for its traps is global. This is in a world-wide environment that is tending to move away from pest poisoning as a control method.

A recent trial of an E2 trap (a renamed A24) in Indonesia showed the potency of its system.

In the first night of the trial the two traps each killed seven rats..

“Our Indonesian partners never get that sort of kill with conventional traps,” Barr says.

“In terms of marketing, that story is better than any brochure. What people realise pretty quickly is that they can set the trap just once and kill multiple pests.”

Making a green stand – literally and figuratively Peter Kerr Oct 22

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Flexibition's range of sustainable exhibition stand products

Flexibition’s range of sustainable exhibition stand products

Here’s an example of a simple idea being good, and a good idea being simple.

It’s also pretty green in the scheme of these things as well as being a “why didn’t I think of that.”

‘Flexibition’ is the brainchild of Wellington designer Juliet Cooke. (

She was showing what has been designed as a packaway exhibition system made from entirely sustainable materials at, somewhat appropriately, the GoGreen Expo in Wellington on October 12 & 13.

Flexibition is based on a lightweight bamboo framework and various fabric panels. These panels include recyclable polyester, jute (recycled coffee sacks) and recycled dacron sails.

Cooke’s got a background in designing for various types of display in exhibitions and museums and other tricky spaces, so is well aware of the collapsible aluminium stands that are readily available.

After a request from a couple of organic-oriented clients (Mary Kelleher of Handmade Stories, and Richard Bacon of Organic Boxes), Cooke perfected her initial two-panel design.

This packs into a 2.1m x 200mm diameter carry bag (jute of course!) weighing eight kilograms. It costs $1700 + GST, plus another $500 for printing. This compares to its aluminium/plastic poor relation which start at about $2100 + GST.

Upcoming developments include a single pop-up stand designed for airline travel which will probably cost less than the two-panel version.

Cooke is a 3D designer, specialising in exhibitions – and this often involves designing furniture, sometimes of a pack down variety for touring shows. Part of her sustainable product repertoire is a collapsible seat, using simple panels held together by rubber straps. This is all the better to allow exhibition-goers a green seating option, with the ultimate plan being to join these together to make various modular structures such as tables and a bench seat.

She says it isn’t worthwhile trying protect the intellectual property or design, but that there’s enough tricky elements in creating a sturdy simple structure that will make imitations difficult.

“The joining method is probably pretty easily imitated, but the supply of materials and craftsmanship for the stand is harder to come by,” she says. “I’m still investigating the viability of various methods of production for the box seat, including getting it made out of recycled material at Trash Palace [Wellington dump’s ‘treasure trove’], and helping to rehabilitate mental health patients. There’s a bit of social sustainability and saving material from the landfill.”

It is early days for a new side of Cooke’s enterprise with the stand being about 12 months in development, and the box seat a much more recent addition to the Flexibition range.

“I’ve got other sustainable product ideas up my sleeve, including a collapsible vase that can fit in a car for funeral flower arrangements,” she says. “Of course though, all this has to be juggled with museum exhibition design contracts and my family’s needs.”

Non-success gets a deserved recognition Peter Kerr Sep 24

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A thumbs up to Lightning Lab and Wellington’s Creative HQ for celebrating non-success.

That, quite deliberately, is different from describing the five of the nine companies which went through LL’s 12 week accelerator programme as failures.

Earlier in the year, the Lightning Lab encouraged, cajoled, questioned and prodded nine good ideas into creating a distinct entity and business plan that may be attractive to potential investors.

(I commented in an earlier blog of my envy of those doing the LL – they learned so much, so quickly).

At a Demo Day in May, these nine pitched their products, and four achieved investment – LearnKo (oversubscribed with $700k), Wipster ($600k), Expander ($500k) and Publons ($350k).

That’s great, and these businesses are busy ramping up and gaining customers as quickly as they can.

Equally as good though is:
1. Lightning Lab is back again in March 2014 for a second run
2. Many people involved in the so-called non-successes will be back

But such non-success also needs a bit of explanation. For example, KidsGoMobile’s team are still all onboard, developing their product, hope to secure investment by the end of the year and will look to launch a Kickstarter campaign.

Teamisto opted not to take up New Zealand-offered investment, but have decamped to Chile, and see South America as being a more scaleable market for their product to help amateur sports teams obtain business funding/sponsorship.

Adeez, Promoki and Questo teams have moved to other ventures, though their founders rate the whole LL experience very highly.

Which is all good stuff. They’re learned, they’ll have other good ideas, they’ll have the nuclei of team members should they have another go at LL, they’ll know most of the hoops that need to be jumped through launching any type of new business.

Lightning Lab 2014 will begin accepting applications from November from around New Zealand for the $18,000 of seed investment for each startup team.

And, in a further feather in LL’s cap, it is the exclusive New Zealand member of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), which comprises 51 of the world’s top accelerators.

So…fantastic. Celebrating success and celebrating non-success – a sign of a maturing Kiwi attitude to things not necessarily working out the way you’d expected.

You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs – or, how to spot a good idea Peter Kerr Sep 17


Engineer, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and raconteur Neville Jordan reckons he needs to kiss about 99 frogs before he’ll find an idea worth investing in.

Speaking as the IPENZ 2013 William Pickering Fellow at a Wellington lecture (part of the body’s national tour), Jordan told about 300 people it takes much research, talking to overseas people, and being introduced to a lot of ideas to find one business/startup that will potentially turn into a handsome prince (to extend the analogy; though he didn’t use this term himself).

Neville Jordan

The Sept. 12 presentation by Jordan, executive chairman of private equity investor Endeavour Capital, was on the topic, ‘How an engineer spots new technology and creates a billion dollar business.’

From his Petone beginnings, including trying to make an atomic bomb (but, as a 13 year old, wasn’t able to source uranium at his local pharmacy!), Jordan briefly outlined how the pharmacist later skewed his interest towards electronics.

Years later he pioneered the use of microwave technologies in New Zealand, floated MAS Tech on the NASDAQ, came away from a subsequent buyout of that company by larger American interests, and with a war chest of funds set up vehicles to invest in other good Kiwi ideas.

Hence the kissing many frogs correlation.

Having been successful with some investments, and less so with others (“it’s not failure, it’s a lack of success” he said in reply to a question), Jordan pondered where some of the next ‘Big Things’ may be coming from.

As an investor, he’s mindful that some technologies can pull society apart.

“How do we impact on the social fabric so we create better societies, and not cripple it in the process,” he posited?

Without giving specific answers, Jordan speculated that advances will be made in:

A fusion of electronics and healthcare (including and around)

  • Chronic pain relief
  • Hearing
  •  Blindness

A rise of new computational abilities

  • Nano-level circuits
  • Neural/cognitive systems

3D printing at home

He also gave huge credence to new education entities which are set to greatly disrupt university (including New Zealand) and other providers’ offerings.

These include Laureate Universities (which have just received $200m in funding from the World Bank, and the Khan Academy (which has over 3,500 courses on offer).

Many people have heard of MOOCs (massive online open course) which currently have three million students in 220 courses.

Jordan says education that is accessible through and because of the internet will profoundly change society – though he, like others cannot possibly envisage what that will be.

Primary industry mobile tech forum draws the digerati Peter Kerr Aug 20

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Numbers tell a story on their own.

And the fact that over 220 attendees ponyed up at the Mobile Tech Summit 2013 in Wellington on August 7 & 8 underscores the message that our natural resources aren’t as old-hat as some would like to believe.

This new event is designed to showcase current and upcoming mobile innovations in New Zealand’s principle food and fibre sections.

In other words; the application of smartphones and mobile devices across our biological industries – which for all the movies made in New Zealand and talk of standalone digital businesses, still underpin our economy.

Indeed, it is the use of an increasingly wide range of digital tools to improve the production, quality, performance (and partly the consumer reaction/acceptance) of products of our land and sea that MTS2013 was clearly aimed at.

The physical, financial and environmental information and components that can be added right along the value-chain from pasture to plate, (or seedling to structure or fish to dish) is huge – and there’s no shortage of tech products for what is commonly known as decision support.

There was a wide range of speakers and different types of vendors – with, unsurprisingly, the start point for many being of the products on offer being a map; farm, forest, vineyard or sea.

The layers of information that can be applied to this spatial place range from soil type to irrigation history, fertiliser requirements to the crops and animal production that have come off a particular piece of dirt.

One challenge I’ve often observed is how these different dataset talk to each other, and how an individual actually makes money from being up with the tech play (beyond such information simply being a cool thing to be involved with).

However one of the underlying themes through the two days is how such silos of knowledge can interlink and interact so that better decisions can be made – even if many of the speakers acknowledged the difficulty of enabling meaningful collaboration between datasets.

The industry will get there; though one factor that will need to be overcome is demographic. Older farmers (and the average age of sheep and beef farmers is 58) mostly aren’t going to be interested in adopting the new mobile technology.

In that regard though, by the time those farmers retire, the different mobile apps and datasets will be much more integrated and provide a much more compelling logic and means to make more money.

Finally, a couple of points raised by speakers.

Mark Pawsey of SST Software (Australia) says that “pure cloud is a challenging environment for agriculture”. This is because, firstly, there’s a tonne of information that can be gleaned at one place and point in time from a piece of land. And, secondly, because wireless networks are comparatively underpowered in rural situations, (and devices such as iPads don’t have that much computing power), getting that data to the cloud to be processed is a trick in itself.

That said, Lukasz Zawilski, the Ministry of Primary Industries’ strategy and architecture manager reckons “mobility is really good at solving complex problems.”

The organisers of this event were no doubt delighted at the turnout, and made the closing comment to the effect they were happily surprised at the number who turned up.

This interface of real (products) and digital (data and intelligence) looks like it could be an opportunity to mine for the foreseeable future.

We’re no closer to a national SETD plan, strategy, attack – call it what you will Peter Kerr Jul 30

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Taking a further opportunity to look at Callaghan Innovation’s Statement of Intent, it begs further questions relating to our country’s overall Research, Science and Technology spend. (Or, to further broaden it, our Science, Engineering, Technology and Design [SETD led innovation]).

  1. What are we actually trying to do?
  2. Who’s doing what?
  3. How efficient (or what’s the efficacy of) our total spend? (In fact, this is a blog on its own – if anyone has any data on how much of the allocated science spend ends up in science rather than government bureaucracy and science organisation/university administration costs, I’d love to know)

Now, CI is meant to be more at the end of converting good science and engineering oriented ideas into commercial reality and money-makers.

And, as it says itself, while CI isn’t going to be bidding for any of the funding areas in R, S & T, it is certainly still in the overall mix.

However, what is still totally unclear, in fact non-existent, is an overall national SETD plan. There is no STRATEGY.

The only mention in the CI SoI is in passing on page 19 which talks about setting up National Technology Networks.

“These Networks could become a framework for a national science and innovation strategy which can help define a more strategic approach to funding rather than making one-off decisions on individual proposals.”

If that’s the case, yet again we’re going to have a national plan as an after-thought.

It’s a bit like retrospectively figuring what we’re doing after we’ve assembled all the pieces, rather than figuring out WHAT we want to do, and THEN assembling the pieces.

Sure, having industry input into what the future might hold is important; but they’re more interested in the here and now, meaning say a two year future-view.

It is an underwhelming way to approach things – a middling method that the likes of Taiwan, Singapore, Finland et al abandoned long ago. It is, yet again, putting the cart in front of the horse.

It also flies in the face of Recommendation #13 from the ‘Powering Innovation’ document of June 2011, which, presumably, formed much of the basis for Callaghan Innovation.

Oversight and Leadership

Recommendation 13

Form a Science and Innovation Council, led from a very senior ministerial level in Government, with representatives from the university, public and private research organisations and from industry. Members should represent a wide range of science and technology themes, including the social sciences. The role of the Science and Innovation Council should be to establish a national innovation strategy and advise on science and
innovation policy and priorities.

Now, perhaps there’s a cunning plan to set up such a council.

On page 10 of CI’s SoI, under the third bullet point sits the sentence.

“The [Callaghan Innovation Act 2012] Act provides for the Responsible Minister to appoint a stakeholder advisory group to support Callaghan Innovation’s work.”

Might I suggest, strongly, Mr Joyce, that this be set up post haste.

Our country desperately needs a simple and clear view of what we’re going to concentrate on for high-value and other value-added manufacturing (especially around some of our biological resources).

I appreciate it is a brave political statement to say; ‘right, we’re heading here, by doing this’, but it is what is lacking at our highest level.

Shuffling such a responsibility down to where it won’t see the light of day within Callaghan Innovation will simply mean more deck-chair arranging for our SETD.

All of the exemplar countries that our bureaucracy and ministers are fond of saying we should be like, lead from the top, based on a Science and Innovation Council.

Even if such a council gets it wrong, at least it is a direction….and you can change direction.

At the moment we have nothing.

To focus our own SETD efforts, we need to do the same as other countries have done and lay our cards on the table for all to see and understand.

Free Range Farm – herding startups for collective growth Peter Kerr Jul 16

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Scale, as anyone starting a business realises, is a key, if not the key to growth and success.

Even in IT-related commerce, achieving scale from a New Zealand base is pretty darn difficult.

Enter, drum-roll please, Free Range Farm – a startup helping startups start up and stay up.

It’s the brainchild of Linc Gasking and Josh Feast, and its goal is to help entrepreneurs grow 1,000 Kiwi startups.

Gasking’s been a bit of a serial entrepreneur himself, and helped launch Chalkle, a community-based learning/teaching platform, started in Wellington and now going nationwide by linking up with local libraries.

Part of the rationale behind FRF is grouped offerings of what will often be businesses focused on solving global problems, have a better story and offer when seeking advice, talking to would-be investors and dovetailing into others’ networks to spread around the world.

Aligning itself with a social enterprise philosophy, FRF’s advisors are Derek Sivers, Suzanne Snively, Preya McMahon and John Harthorne.

Feast, a Kiwi, is mostly based in Boston – so right from its own beginnings, FRF has an international outlook.

A just announced development, and large increase in FRF’s virtual footprint is the association it now has with Los Angeles based Larta Institute.

Larta’s web-stated mission is to:

‘help regions around the world maximize the commercial potential of publicly funded R&D by supporting entrepreneurs in their commercialization efforts and nurturing the innovation system’.

Larta is also a private, non-profit professional services firm, so, that seems like a pretty good fit for Free Range Farms as well.

FRF will take a small clip of the ticket for successful hatching of their free range startups, though, given its values (as seen here, below), there’s a fair degree of collectivism of spirit.

  • Respect
  • Diversity
  • Integrity
  • Transparency
  • Collaboration

FRF, is also in the process of looking for suitable commercial accommodation for its mix of just starting, in-development and cranking up and going businesses – most of whom Gasking feels will want to be in close proximity to each other for the synergies of such closeness (based on the notion that new ideas are created in the spaces between people. See an expansion on this idea in this sticK blog).

This strikes sticK as being an excellent initiative.

The startup world can be lonely and extremely poorly sign-posted. Having others alongside who have travelled the same paths, and indeed with whom you might be able to hitch a lift is eminently sensible for a place like New Zealand.

FRF’s given themselves some ambitious numbers in looking to grow 1,000 startups – and even if only a small percentage really take off, it will all be fantastic for the business acumen, financial fortunes and spinoff benefits of local companies doing good for themselves and the rest of the world.

So far Free Range Farm has 104 startups under its wing – and, at the risk of a bad pun, you could call it organic growth even!

Software Patents: the Difference between Excluding Computer Programs as Such and Excluding Computer Programs as Such Peter Kerr May 23


By guest blogger Doug Calhoun

The Patents Bill has had a tortuous ride through Parliament – to say the least. Introduced in 2008, it was reviewed by a select committee in 2009 and reported back in March 2010. In September 2012, the bill finally got its second reading that featured a heated debate over the exclusion from patent eligibility of “a computer program as such”.

Since then the committee stage (when the “as such” wording would be voted on) has been delayed.

On 9 May the government tabled Supplementary Order Paper 237.

The main change proposed in SOP 237 was to rewrite the September 2012 exclusion in a new Clause 10A. The new clause features 4 sub-clauses that seek to explain how the exclusion is to be interpreted – but the substantive exclusion is still “a computer program as such.”

So it came as a bit of a surprise to read Clare Curran’s description of the change as David conquering Goliath – a win for the 90%+ of New Zealand innovators that she claims to represent. It is a bit difficult to fathom how the exclusion of a computer program “as such” can be condemned so strongly in September and then be a triumph the following May.

But hey, this is politics. And Clare Curran has borrowed a page from the George W. Bush manual of political spin. She didn’t have a bomber jacket, a “Mission Accomplished” banner or an aircraft carrier. So she had to settle for a declaration of victory – never mind the inconvenient details – on her party’s “Red Alert” blog.

Ms Curran’s victory announcement included this slight revision of history:

“Three years ago, the Commerce Select Committee undertook a much needed review of New Zealand’s patent laws which hadn’t been looked at since 1953. A substantial review which considered and recommended modernisation to an important plank of our intellectual property regime ranging from inventions to medicines, traditional knowledge and indigenous plants and animals to software programs.”

The Patents Act 1953 has been under review for half of its life. In 1983 a government appointed committee (the Industrial Property Advisory Committee) began the process. Since then reviews have done by the Law Commission (1989/90), the Ministry of Commerce (1990-1994), and the Ministry of Economic Development (2000-2008). The Patents Bill, in its original form was introduced by a Labour led government in 2008. What happened before Clare Curran became aware of it was seemingly beyond her event horizon.

The policy development had been conducted in a largely non-partisan way through to September 2012, when computer software became a political football and the rest of the Patents Bill and its purpose became largely ignored. The injection of partisan politics into patent policy at this stage is hardly a recipe for success for New Zealand.

According to its explanatory note, the wording of SOP 237 is intended to be

“more consistent with English precedent.”

But one wonders how closely the authors of the change have looked at English precedent.

In the most recent (3 May 2013) UK appeal decision HTC Europe v Apple the English court of Appeal reversed a lower court decision and held an Apple patent claim to be valid. The invention related to the organisation of touch screen devices. The claim reads:

  • “(i) A method for handling touch events at a multi-touch device, comprising:
  • (ii) displaying one or more views;
  • (iii) executing one or more software elements, each software element being associated with a particular view;
  • (iv) associating a multi-touch flag or an exclusive touch flag with each view, said multi-touch flag indicating whether a particular view is allowed to receive multiple simultaneous touches and said exclusive touch flag indicating whether a particular view allows other views to receive touch events while the particular view is receiving a touch event;
  • (v) receiving one or more touches at the one or more views; and
  • (vi) selectively sending one or more touch events, each touch event describing a received touch, to one or more of the software elements associated with one or more views at which a touch was received based on the values of the multi-touch and exclusive touch flags.”

The lower court decision was that this claimed an (ineligible) computer program as such – the appeal court held it did not. The invention claimed was patent eligible.

Lord Justice Lewison, in paragraphs 140 to 144, had a bit of a moan:

“This appeal requires us, once again, to venture into the minefield of the exclusion from patentability of computer programs ‘as such’”

He then went on to explain that the two simple words “as such” found in the European Patent Convention (which governs both UK domestic law and the law applied in the European Patent Office) still have no clear meaning after 35 years of trying. Instead of arguing about what the legislation means, the arguments now are about what the gloss means. And still no one can agree.

SOP 237 sets out to put into law in New Zealand, a New Zealand “gloss” on the gloss that they have been disagreeing about in the English courts and the European Patent Office since 1978.

Clare Curran paints

“the bloated patent attorney sector”

as one of the villains on the side of Goliath in this saga. (Gratuitous insults seem to be as common to political blogs as a bit of biffo is to rugby pitches.)

What her “triumph” has unwittingly done is to open up a fertile new field for the bloated patent attorney sector to venture into over the next few years. And among the most likely innovations will be in defining software-implemented inventions.

Clare Curran might also want to have a look in her own (Dunedin) back yard. A successful University of Otago spinoff company there is Pacific Edge. That company boasts on its website that it underpins its products with a strong portfolio of patents.

One of its New Zealand patents, NZ 544432, claims a method for determining the prognosis of colorectal cancer in a patient using analysis software.

Under the new clause 10A and under clause 15 of the Patents Bill such claims might no longer be eligible for patents because they might claim a computer program per se or else because they might claim a method of diagnosis, or both.

The most valuable asset that Pacific Edge has is its intellectual property. The Patents Bill casts doubt on the patent eligibility of innovative technologies that Pacific Edge is seeking to commercialise.

Is this really going to promote investment in innovation?

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