New Zealand software to be 'unpatentable'

Summary:New Zealand's great software patent debate has come to a head today after Commerce Minister Simon Power said that he would make no further amendments to the country's new Patents Bill, which will make software "unpatentable".

New Zealand's great software patent debate has come to a head today after Commerce Minister Simon Power said that he would make no further amendments to the country's new Patents Bill, which will make software "unpatentable".

However, the minister added that he would instruct the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) to draft new guidelines that would allow inventions that contain software to still be patentable.

"My decision follows a meeting with the chair of the Commerce Committee where it was agreed that a further amendment to the Bill is neither necessary nor desirable," he said.

Ross van der Schyff, group manager for the IPONZ, confirmed that the patent office would draft the guidelines once the Patents Bill passed its final stages of parliament.

The decision was widely applauded by industry and members of government alike.

Clare Curran, member of the Commerce Committee and Labor spokesperson for communications and IT, congratulated the minister for "keeping his word" and supporting the committee's recommendations.

"Innovative Kiwi software development firms would have faced real challenges to develop new software if patents were enforceable," Curran said.

Paul Matthews, CEO of the New Zealand Computer Society (NZCS), said in a blog post today that this development was significant, and that software patents "stifle innovation".

"We believe it's near impossible for software to be developed without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents awarded around the world, hence many software companies in New Zealand ... live a constant risk that their entire business will be wound up overnight due to litigious action by a patent holder," he said in the blog.

The NZCS represents ICT professionals in New Zealand and works with industry and government to "advance education across the board".

The Patent Bill does not yet have a date to go before parliament.

(Front page image credit: Sample coding image by Goppar Aggarwal, CC 2.0)

Topics: Government, Government : AU, New Zealand, Open Source

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A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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