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New Zealand bans software patents

Does the IT industry a favour
Thu May 09 2013, 14:38

NEW ZEALAND has banned software patents in a bill passed on Wednesday, declaring that "a computer program is not an invention".

New Zealand's commerce minister Craig Foss released a supplementary order paper (SOP) to the Patents Bill this week, which clarified that patenting software will no longer be allowed in the country.

Confusingly, the same patent legislation was proposed last year, but weasel wording in the patent law still let software patents slip through the system.

The aims of the ammended bill are clear, with the SOP stating, "A computer program is not an invention and not a manner of manufacture for the purposes of this Act."

"A claim in a patent or an application relates to a computer program as such if the actual contribution made by the alleged invention lies solely in it being a computer program," the note continues. Interestingly, this clause replaces last year's note which contained the phrase "as such", the wording that let patents slip through in the bill.

"These changes ensure the Bill is consistent with the intention of the Commerce Select Committee recommendation that computer programs should not be patentable," Foss said.

The bill has been welcomed by the information technology industry in New Zealand. The Institute of IT Professionals said it "strongly supports the government's announcement today", adding that "software will not be patentable in New Zealand and a major barrier to software innovation has been removed".

Labour's communications and IT spokesperson Clare Curran also welcomed the news. She said,"Last year Craig Foss gave in to patent lawyers and multinational software players and sought to impose a software patents system on our IT sector.

"Now, finally Craig Foss has fessed up and admitted he got it wrong. This is a victory for our industry, which is worth around 11 percent of our GDP." µ


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