Today in the NZ Parliament, the Patents Bill (the first update to the current patent legislation, unchanged since 1952!) underwent its Committee Stage (initiated with a rather stirring speech by Clare Curran lauding the NZ software industry as the "forgers and creators of our new economy") and its Third Reading.
Last week's announcement that Commerce Minister Craig Foss had submitted a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) to alter the wording of the Patents Bill prior to its second reading in Parliament rightly raised the ire of the New Zealand software industry.
With the removal of the explicit software patent exclusion, and the addition of two tiny words, "as such", the Commerce Minister, Craig Foss, has more or less thrown kiwi software developers under a bus.
In the past New Zealand has shown great foresight and leadership in the world by staying true to its national ethos, even at the cost of breaking from international conventions. From recognising a woman's right to vote and denying US nuclear powered warships the right to transit, NZ has shown the willingness to make a principled stand, even if doing so was seen by many as risky. These decisions have proven to be some of our best moments, and have helped to shape our national pride and culture. New Zealand again has an opportunity to make a principled stand.
Many members of the NZOSS community are software developers, both professional and hobbyist. Over the past several years, we have watched with increasing horror the absurdity of software patents unfolding in the United States. To many of us, it seems like watching a slow, painful, obscenely costly (but probably non-fatal) train wreck.
Most NZOSS readers will now be aware of this removed, but cached blog that referred to a meeting that NZICT had with MED. NZICT came away with the impression that MED were changing the intent of the Commerce Select Committee's recommendation, and changing the legislation in a way that would allow software to be patentable after all. The Google cache seems to have expired: