Can we get this moving again soon plz? (James g, zcat, kiwipeso)
Those look like good points to start from. I suggest 2 STV votes in parallel (one for software, one for all patents) and then consider pharma,life, non-tangible, trivial afterwards in wake of the results.
i) abolish and revoke all current patents
ii) stop granting new patents
iii) restrict liability to cases where patents were knowingly infringed / not independently developed
iv) status quo
Anything else that should be in the continuum?
I probably wouldn't worry too much about the difference between i and ii at this stage, since the result would be the same after 20 years either way.
For iii, I think the not independently developed idea might be problematic for a couple of reasons--it may be difficult to prove, and also it may be more expensive to refine an invention and/or have it approved than to get it to the stage of being patentable (approval for pharmaceuticals is an expensive process), so a ban on independent development may provide part of the incentive for refinement and approval.
Restricting liability to cases where patents are knowingly infringed, though, sounds like an interesting idea to me. If patent holders have to notify others if they sell something covered by a patent, and sale prior to the notice is not considered infringing, this would lessen the damage that might be suffered from lawsuits over accidental infringement. I think this might make sense as a separate vote though.
So of the above options, I think probably only abolish and status quo are needed for the continuum, but with a new intermediate option of abolishing once an alternative system is in place. And I think this probably needs to be voted on for each of non-tangible, pharmaceuticals, life, and sundry (if there are no further classifications), because someone might want to vote to keep some, abolish some ASAP, and abolish others once alternative systems are in place.
I think we probably all agree that patents should not be granted for trivial things, the trick here would be finding an appropriate definition for 'trivial'.
iv) as far as this question goes.
My opinion is that the existence of patents is not a problem. Although I'm not convinced that they help anywhere near as much as some people think they do, I also don't see too much harm either except in a few areas.
The length of patents is likewise perfectly appropriate. I don't know if it's "ideal" or not, but it's certainly not a problem as compared the the length of copyright. Patents are short enough that someone might see the patent granted and also see it expire within their working adult life.
The only policy we should have on patents is that some areas should be excluded because patents in those areas cause an indisputable amount of harm. Software and pharmaceuticals are the two big ones in my opinion and the New Zealand government is already well on track to making software patents invalid.
Also the policy that patents should cover 'inventions' and not such things as mathematical formula or naturally occurring discoveries. But for the most part I think New Zealand is already immune to this madness.
According to the reference (ABA, 2007, p. 108) from the policy wiki page, a literature review of research on patents suggests pharmaceuticals to be one of the few areas where patents significantly promote innovation, so it probably makes sense to aim to abolish this once an alternative system is in place, as the Swedish pirate party suggests.
This is off-topic, but regarding patent length, patents are different from copyright in that the copyright term begins once development is completed and commercial exploitation has begun, whereas when the patent term begins there may still be a lot of R&D/certification to do before commercial exploitation can begin. If there is 10 years of R&D/certification (apparently not unusual for pharmaceuticals), then that would leave 10 years for commercial exploitation, the same as we suggest for copyright. An issue though is that the less R&D/certification a patent requires, the more time it gets for commercial exploitation, which makes absolutely no sense. Perhaps instead of a flat 20 year patent term, it might be better to have up to 10 years for R&D followed by a maximum of 10 years for commercial exploitation? (If this could be workable.)