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05.10.13

New Zealand Bill Which Denounces Software Patents Still Permits Them, Just the Beginning of a Solution But Not the End

Posted in Patents at 11:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

New Zealand’s geographical landscape still far better than its patent landscape

New Zealand landscape

Summary: Reservations against excessive optimism that lead to passiveness and apathy; a loophole for software patenting in NZ (same as in EU) remains in tact and the Bill is not yet passed, leaving time for further amendments

The debate over software patents in New Zealand will not be finished by a Craig Foss admission that has was wrong. For one thing, the new Bill has not been signed yet; moreover, loopholes remain for patenting software in the island. One report sarcastically says that NZ had to ban software patents twice, not just once. To quote: “The software patentability row in New Zealand, which broke out last August over the wording of new patent legislation, seems to have been settled with the release of new legislation by the government.

“For one thing, the new Bill has not been signed yet; moreover, loopholes remain for patenting software in the island.”“In a move that’s been welcomed locally by the IT industry, the government has clarified the original intention of the legislation, that software alone should not be patentable.”

This other report gives not the full story, but being Forbes, we don’t have high expectations to begin with. It says: “In a bill passed earlier today, the Government of New Zealand announced that software in the country will no longer be patentable. New Zealand’s largest IT representative body, the Institute of IT Professionals, expressed relief and said the decision removed a major barrier to software-led innovation.”

Here is the Supplementary Order Paper, which InternetNZ welcomes. To quote: “InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) welcomes today’s tabling of a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) that makes it clear that computer software is not patentable in New Zealand.”

This is tabled, not passed. Moreover, explains Glyn Moody, the "as such" loophole remains and to use his own words: “Given all the problems with the phrase “as such”, it would have been easier to omit it completely, rather than resort to well-meaning but necessarily limited attempts to clarify it through examples.”

Here is IDG’s report and another from a local competitor with no US ties. There are many reports which emphasise the bill has not passed yet (the corporate press got it wrong). Here is a particulary good report from a very bright reporter.

Is the US next? Unlikely, not any time soon! The USPTO still enjoys the consent from large corporations that run the nation, so trolls (small entities) are the only element primed for abolition. But a group of VCs, including Brad Feld, is still working on real reform — a reform which tar gets software patents. To quote Feld: “Fred Wilson, Brad Burnham, Jason Mendelson, and I have been talking about the problem of software patents for a long time and Fred brought it up again today on his blog in a post titled Piecemeal Patent Reform. It’s nice to see Senator Chuck Schumer proposing a simple yet powerful solution to part of the software patent problem.”

Schumer, whom we mentioned the other day, is one of the few who actually do this correctly this time around (not like his last time [1, 2], this time he is not running just after trolls). Let’s support his endeavour.

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