11 August 2004

Intellectual property and the FTA

During my time away, I was quietly confident that the free-trade agreement (FTA) that Australia was developing with the United States would be of huge benefit to our country. This made it one of the certain advantages of Australia's participation in the war in Iraq.

But it appears that all is not rosy. With the ratification of the FTA comes the "harmonisation" of Australian intellectual property law with that of the United States. One of the biggest changes will be the introduction of patents in the software industry. Legal battles over meaningless patents are certain to occur, likely squeezing out smaller players in the industry, especially those working at the "cutting-edge".

Ross Gittins has written a series of enlightening articles (Software's game of mutually assured damage, Trade deal a free kick for US software racketeers) about this issue. His editorial today also summarises the issue well.