Asia-Pacific firms rally against e-commerce patent

Asia-Pacific businesses are fighting back against a controversial patent covering international transactions over the Internet that has been filed by a US company

Matthew Tutaki received 2,000 emails from Asia-Pacific businesses within 48 hours of publicising his effort to overturn a highly controversial e-commerce patent that came within days of being ratified by Australian authorities.

Tutaki, a vocal member of the Asia-Pacific IT community, has taken on an activist role in raising and spearheading a campaign against the patent filed by a Canadian firm DE Technologies, which claims that businesses conducting international transactions over the Internet are using its intellectual property.

The Australian announced his crusade to the media on Wednesday. Over 700 of the emails received were from Australian businesses from a broad cross section of industry, from small cane exporters to large corporations, Tutaki said.

Although he declined to reveal the email senders' identities, he said the messages comprised a combination of pledges of support, and anxious queries on how the patent might impact their businesses.

DE Technologies has already sent letters to firms in New Zealand -- where the patent has been granted -- using e-commerce to conduct international trade and have demanded royalty fees of up to $25,000 (£15,719). If the patent is granted in Australia, Tutaki believes it has the potential to cost Australian businesses millions in royalty fees. He is now advocating the establishment of an independent arbiter under the auspices of the United Nations to adjudicate on intellectual property issues that affect global trade.

"Theoretically, there should be a central arbitrary body -- administered by the UN to be quite frank -- which should be our last port of call," said Tutaki.

"We already have one of these in the organisations in the UN -- the arbitrary body that assigns domain names," he added.

Tutaki reasons that the establishment of such a body will result in disputes being resolved more quickly and cost effectively than they would if left to national authorities.

He fears that smaller regional operations will suffer most if IP Australia leaves the courts to settle the current dispute over the e-commerce patent. "You can appreciate the big end of town has the money to spend on the courts, [but] the small end just doesn't have it," he said.

Tutaki believes small enterprises in regional centres will only have access to general practice solicitors who will advise them to pay the royalty rather than attempt a legal challenge.

IP Australia is currently considering Tutaki's application to extend the cooling-off period in which interested parties are given the opportunity to challenge the patent.

A spokesperson for IP Australia said an application to oppose the patent will be considered if the extension is granted.


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