Today the New Zealand government’s office announced that Commerce Minister Simon Power instructed the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) to develop guidelines to allow inventions that contain embedded software to be patented. After sifting through the legalese, this in essence means that software will no longer patentable.
When the Commerce Committee reported the bill back to Parliament in March it recommended that computer programmes not be a patentable invention.
During its consideration of the bill, the committee received many submissions opposing the granting of patents for computer programs on the grounds it would stifle innovation and restrict competition.
It also considered that companies investing in inventions involving “embedded” computer programs should be able to obtain patent protection for these inventions.
The committee and the Minister accept this position.
New Zealand is essentially taking the position that Copyright law provides enough protection to software as it is; patents only serve to stifle innovation because of the ever-looming threat of being sued by some obscure patent troll company. Make no mistake about it—there are companies whose sole purpose is to hoard patents until someone happens to violate them.
This is an exceptionally progressive move by a clearly tech-savvy government. The question becomes, of course: Is this good for innovation, or will it harm businesses by making it potentially easier to use their intellectual property to “steal” their code?