New Zealand to make software unpatentable

New Zealand is set to become one of the first countries to make software unpatentable after its Minister for Justice, Hon Simon Power, announced modifications to the Patents Bill.

“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,” Power said, despite calls by pro-patent groups to alter things so that their software patents still hold sway.

He revealed that he agrees with the Commerce Commitee’s recommendation in March that software “not be a patentable invention” and that the Commitee received numerous submissions and comments regarding the damaging effects of patents on the software industry.

Following these meetings the Patens Bill is to undergo its last hurdles in Parliament, while the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand is to draft guidelines relating to patents of devices containing embedded software, which is a sticking point for many.

Patents have become a growing area of debate and controversy as more and more patent lawsuits enter the courts worldwide. Some companies operate purely on buying patents and then suing those they believe infringe upon them, earning revenue for the possession of a piece of paper at the expense of those who are actually putting the ideas into action.

NZCS spoke to two of the biggest software companies in New Zealand, Orion and Jade, which were both in favour of the new laws. Orion said “software patents are counter-productive and are often used obstructively”, while Jade called them “onerous” and “not suited to the software industry”.

Since these two companies represent nearly half of the software exports from New Zealand, it’s plain to see that most software companies welcome today’s decision.