Minister Announces No Software Patents

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Minister of Commerce Simon Power today announced that further amendment to the Patent Bill is neither necessary nor desirable, and that the insertion of an exception for software would prevail. He has also asked IPONZ to formulate draft guidelines and seek the views of interested parties regarding patents involving embedded software.

The response to this news has been immediate. Paul Matthews of the New Zealand Computer Society writes "Despite what appears to be a big-budget lobbying effort by the pro-patent fraternity, Hon Simon Power announced today that he wouldn't be modifying the proposed Patents Bill hence software will be unpatentable once the Bill passes into law."

He continues to say "We believe it's near impossible for software to be developed without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents awarded around the world, hence many software companies in New Zealand, creating outstanding and innovative software, live a constant risk that their entire business will be wound up overnight due to litigious action by a patent holder."

News outlets have also been quick off the mark, with the NZHerald, ComputerWorld and Scoop running stories about the development.

The outcome today is not the only news about software patents. The fallout from the Bilski case in the US is starting, with the Board of Patents Appeals and Interferences making a ruling citing Bilski in rejecting a software patent by HP.

This decision has been made despite significant opposition by some very powerful multinational IT vendors and organisations which represent them. On June 9 there was a meeting between NZICT and its representatives from Microsoft and IBM to reverse the decision to accept the recommendation of the Commerce Select Committee. While this attempt was not successful there was a question about whether the language would be modified.