Software Patents Bill passed

28 Aug 2013 Newsdesk: IT industry bodies are celebrating the near unanimous passing of the Patents Bill in Parliament, which will effectively remove software patents from New Zealand…

(This article was originally published by iStart earlier this month)

Software patents are seen by many across the New Zealand digital community as an economic handbrake on innovation, the negative results of which have been seen in other countries. The passing of the Bill now makes New Zealand a leader in the contentious debate surrounding the use of software patents.

The Institute of IT Professionals (IITP) chief executive Paul Matthews said, “We are delighted to see the new Patents Act (2013) has passed the committee stage and third reading with near unanimous support in Parliament. I would like to congratulate Minister Craig Foss for listening to concerns from the IT industry and ensuring that software patents are excluded.

“As Labour ICT Spokesperson Clare Curran said in Parliament today, this is a historic day for Intellectual Property in New Zealand. It’s also a breakthrough day where old law met modern technology and came out on the side of New Zealand’s software innovators”.

Don Christie, co-chair of industry body NZRise, which represents the interests of New Zealand-owned digital technology businesses, said, “We are happy with the outcome which puts New Zealand at the forefront of dealing with the international problem caused by software patents.

We hope other countries will follow suit and heavily restrict or outright ban this phenomenon which over the last decade has stymied technological innovation and economic growth.”

The Patents Bill has taken 5 years to pass in its current form. It was first drafted in 2008, and in 2010 the Commerce Select Committee recommended a total ban on software patents. However, this stance was overturned with the introduction of a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) in August last year where the removal of software patents was reversed.

The local software industry was clear on the need to remove software patents and during this time the IITP, NZRise, InternetNZ and NZOSS, along with some of New Zealand’s leading software companies including Orion Healthcare and Jade Software worked to ensure that patents would be banned. A poll of over 1000 IITP members, taken at the time of the SOP in August 2012, revealed that 94 percent of those with a view were in favour of banning software patents.

“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,” Matthews said.

Colin Jackson, co-founder of Internet NZ, said, “Experience in New Zealand and overseas has shown time and time again that software patents cannot be granted fairly and allow companies that create nothing to threaten innovative software creators. Patents are intended to promote innovation by allowing people to make money from their inventions; but in software they have the opposite effect of allowing others to make money from inventors’ work. I am delighted that the Minister [Foss] understands this point and is acting to unequivocally rule out software patents in New Zealand, boosting our software industry that already contributes so much to our exports.”

The industry bodies have also extended their thanks and gratitude to others who took on their cause in Parliament, including Labour’s Clare Curran, United Future’s Peter Dunne and the Greens’ Gareth Hughes.

“Today’s historic legislation will support our innovative technology industry, and sends a clear message to the rest of the world that New Zealand won’t tolerate the vexatious practice of ‘patent trolls’. That is, when software patents are created with the sole purpose of bringing costly litigation against inventive technology companies.

“In short, the banning of software patents is a victory for common sense,” Matthews of the IITP said.

This article was originally published by iStart earlier this month.

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