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Kiwi software no longer patentable

10 May 2013

The New Zealand government has proposed a bill making Kiwi software no longer patentable, in a move which has caused mixed reactions within the country.

Passed in a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP), the document sets out proposed amendments to the existing Patents Bill.

Alterations include a 'new clause 10A' which now states:

(1) A computer program is not an invention and not a manner of manufacture for the purposes of this Act.

(2) Subsection (1) prevents anything from being an invention or a manner of manufacture for the purposes of this Act only to the extent that a claim in a patent or an application relates to a computer program as such.

(3) 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.

Lending his full support to the bill, Commerce Minister Craig Foss released the SOP to clarify issues around the patentability of computer programmes in the Patents Bill.

“Following consultation with the NZ software and IT sector, I am pleased to be further progressing the Patents Bill with this SOP," he said.

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

Calling the change a "humiliating backdown", Labour naturally led opposition to the bill, with the party's information technology and communications spokeswoman Clare Curran saying:

"It caused an uproar in our innovative IT industry, which knew it would be stifled by constant threats of lawsuits from multinationals.

"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 per cent of our GDP."

Foss hit back however, maintaining confidence the correct decision was made while thanking New Zealand software and the IT sector for their engagement during the past few months.

"I’m confident we’ve reached a solution where we can continue to protect genuine inventions and encourage Kiwi businesses to export and grow," he said.

"Progressing the Patents Bill is a key plank of the government’s Business Growth Agenda for supporting innovation in New Zealand.

"It builds on work to deliver policy reforms to create a more competitive and productive economy."

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