Wayne Hudson, newly elected president of the New Zealand Software Association, is a lawyer who believes secrecy is preferable to patents.
Hudson, of Auckland firm Bell Gully, takes over the NZSA reins for the next two years from Rollo Gillespie, of software house Data Group. Hudson says he’s inheriting an organisation that’s in good shape — membership is growing and “we’re not poor” — but with plenty of work to do.
“The mission we’ve defined for ourselves is to help New Zealand software companies to succeed,” Hudson says.
“That means helping people with risk management; helping them link up with other organisations that enable them to develop best practices with regard to the development of their software; linking up with people who can provide opportunities to find overseas markets; and to enhance their selling skills and entrepreneurial skills.”
Hudson does not believe the path to software development success is necessarily paved with patents.
“My personal view is what you can keep secret is better than filing a patent. If you can keep it secret and no one can actually find out how you’ve done what you’ve done you’re going to maintain your competitive edge.”
Small companies will always come out worse off in a patent dispute with a large competitor, Hudson’s experience tells him. Big organisations will deliberately take on small ones knowing they have the resources to defend any accusation of patent infringement and eventually to negotiate a poor deal for the small patent holder.
“I’ve seen too many instances where people have filed a patent and then found it infringed almost immediately and they have no money with which to defend it. So if you’re going to file a patent you’ve got to be prepared to defend it and if you haven’t got the money to defend it, then why file the patent?”
A Hudson-led NZSA will be working with other ICT organisations to help achieve the government’s goal of turning the sector into a 10% GDP earner by 2012. He believes that will require consolidation of the numerous formal and informal groups — by one count totalling about 300 — active in the sector.
But he acknowledges that Rollo Gillespie wasn’t wrong in once describing the process of getting the industry to speak with one voice as being like herding cats.
“I think there is a need to rationalise the number of organisations because if they’re all voluntary organisations spending their own money, doing the same as everyone else, then there is a waste of time, money and effort.”
He says talks have already been initiated with the New Zealand Computer Society, about sharing databases, and discussions have taken place with ITANZ.