It’s taken five years but changes to patent legislation have finally passed into law.
The Patents Bill passed its third reading yesterday, 117 to four, with only the Maori Party and Mana dissenting. The Bill had been introduced by Labour in 2008.
There was wide agreement on the version of the Bill reported back from the select committee but there was a further delay when Commerce Minister Craig Foss proposed changes to allay concerns it might breach WTO conventions. The addition of the words “as such” to the end of a clause stating a computer program was not a patentable invention raised concerns that it would in fact make software and code patentable.
The issue around “as such” has now been clarified by using English case law.
Institute of IT Professionals chief executive Paul Matthews says he is delighted and that the concerns of the IT industry have been listened to, ensuring that software patents are excluded.
“It’s a breakthrough day where old law met modern technology and came out on the side of New Zealand’s software innovators,” he says.
“The patents system doesn’t work for software because it is almost impossible for genuine technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist, often for very obvious work.”
He says the banning of software patents is a victory for common sense.