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Thursday, 30 August 2012 10:47

New Zealand back-flips on software patents

By

Two years ago, New Zealand vowed that it would not allow software to be patentable in the country. Yesterday, the shaky isles did a back-flip and decided to only partially forbid the practice.

The new Patent Bill had been pending in parliament for more than two years and was expected to impose an outright ban on software patents.

The weasel words "as such" were introduced before the bill was passed, so that while software "as such" cannot be patented, a patent for an embedded system will include the software as well as the hardware.

The back-flip can probably be attributed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade treaty being pushed by the US. New Zealand is one of 11 countries involved in the negotiations.

Had the bill banned software patents, then it would have contradicted portions of the proposed IP regime of the TPPA.

In a statement, the New Zealand Open Source Society said the change in wording "has more or less thrown kiwi software developers under a bus".

It added: "The minister (Commerce Minister Craig Foss) may believe that replacing the explicit exclusion of software patents with an 'as such'  is striking a clever compromise.

"If that is the case, he needs to be disabused of his mistaken impression: those six letters represent a legal loophole the size of a bus, which have made a mockery European Union patent legislation's intent: to block software patents.

"Any hope that our government would show visionary leadership in patent reform seems to have been dashed. This is a victory for US corporations who have refined the art of the 'patent infringement extortion', and have broken the software marketplace overseas, using software patents to set back any would-be competitors."


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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