There was widespread happiness among software developers a few months back, when it was announced that New Zealand had decided to explicitly ban software patents
. Of course, it didn't take long for a lobbying campaign to kick off from those opposed to this provision, and it appears the lobbying was effective, such that software patents will now be allowed
-- though, they will still be somewhat limited (as they are in Europe). So, it's not quite as bad as the situation in the US. A New Zealand patent attorney posted a letter from the head of the lobbying group discussing this shift. While that blog post has since been deleted, as of this posting Google still has the cache
. Most of the letter rambles on a bit about who was in the meeting, but the key points are towards the end, where he claims that the government official they met with made the following points:
- The intent had never been to ban software patents outright (and the MED would have serious concerns about that if it were proposed).
- If it is patentable in the EU then it should be patentable in New Zealand.
- Software should be treated like other technology, so should have a technical purpose and be an inventive step to be patentable, as in Europe.
- Not just any software would be patentable, it would need to meet the above test.
- Embedded or not embedded is or was not the distinction that is intended.
- The signal that the Government wants to send is to follow European law and practice.
Of course, that does seem to contradict some of what was discussed a few months back, where it was explicitly stated that:
"Protecting software by patenting it is inconsistent with the open source model and its proponents oppose it. A number of submitters argue that there is no "inventive step" in software development, as "new" software inevitably builds on existing software. They felt that computer software should be exluded from patent protection as software patents can stifle innovation and competition, and can be granted for trivial or existing techniques. In general we accept this position."
In general, you accept that position until the lobbyists get busy, apparently.