Patent reforms expected next year

Calls for a revamp of the patent law to prevent the patenting of obvious or uninventive technology might have some satisfaction by early next year.

The government has announced plans to amend the Patents Act to make it tougher to claim obvious or uninventive patents.

Associate commerce minister Judith Tizard aims to introduce the new legislation to parliament early next year. Tizard was not available for interview last night but in a press release said the criteria for granting patents would be strengthened to ensure patents were granted for “genuine innovations”.

The legislation would review the Patent Act’s definition of “invention” and its ability to deal with new technologies, Tizard said in the release.

Calls for changes to the existing 1953 law to discourage patent abuse have become a chorus since Canadian company DE Technologies accused local e-tailers of patent “piracy” in connection with an e-commerce patent it holds in this country. The company has written to e-tailers demanding licensing fees of $10,000 plus royalties.

Cabinet briefing papers suggest that the commissioner of patents should be able to reject patents that “on the balance of probabilities” do not meet all the requirements of the Patent Act. Currently the commissioner can only reject a patent if “practically certain” the patent would not be upheld in court.

The papers also suggest that New Zealand adopt language more closely associated with Australian patent law.

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