Our growing innovative software industry has been dealt a cruel blow which will compromise and stifle its potential, says Clare Curran, Labour’s communications and IT spokesperson.
The National Government’s decision to open the door to the patenting
of computer software winds back a simple but vital change to our little
known patent law, which has undergone its first review since 1953.
Craig Foss’s decision is a major back-down on the stance taken by the
previous Commerce Minister Simon Power to back the unanimous decision
of the Commerce Select Committee, following clear advice from officials.
The Patents Bill proposed to exclude computer software from being
patentable, because like books, movies or music, it can be protected
under copyright law. This was a ground-breaking position which has been
generally applauded by the burgeoning New Zealand ICT sector.
The Select Committee accepted that new software inventions are
regularly built on existing software, and that software patents were
often granted for “trivial or existing techniques.”
The Committee found that using intellectual property in a fair and
reasonable manner would promote Kiwi innovation and build advanced
“The last minute amendment by the Government so that software “as
such” can’t be patented, but inventions that include software can be,
opens the door to widespread patenting of software. The Minister has
caved in to pressure from big corporations which fear competition from
“That’s a slap in the face to the local industry, and many innovative
Kiwi software firms will now face real challenges to develop new
“The Minister should have stuck to his predecessor’s plan to get the
Intellectual Property Office to develop guidelines for inventions that
involves ‘embedded software’, or software that is built into a physical
device. That would have been a reasonable solution which would have
promoted innovation in one of New Zealand’s emerging industries.
“Labour’s policy is to enact and implement the Patent Bill excluding
computer software. That will give our software innovators the best
chance to succeed,” says Clare Curran.
Source New Zealand Labour Party released under Creative Commons licence CC BY ND NZ