No patents software in New Zealand

New Zealand has approved a law which bans software patents. The proposal to abolish this type of patents dating back to 2008 and only now has been approved by parliament after a long debate. Even if the question relates to a distant country we can not remain indifferent. Since many years there’s a battle between proponents of software patents and their rivals. In particular, the Free Software Foundation founded by the famous Richard Stallman has always been a promoter of campaigns aimed at delegitimizing software patents because some developers believe that patent is not an adequate instrument to encourage the development of new programs and therefore the scientific and technological progress. The progressive expansion of open source programs on the one hand and the sad rule of patent trolls have convinced New Zealand to make a radical decision. As you read in a passage from the text of the law, the abolition of software patents is not so much due to a law reason as a reason of opportunities:

« Open source, or free, software has grown in popularity since the 1980s. Protecting software by patenting is inconsistent with the open source model, and its proponents oppose it. A number of submitters argued that there is no “inventive step” in software development, as “new” software invariably builds on existing software. They felt that computer software should be excluded 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. (…) After careful consideration we concluded that developing a clear and definitive distinction between embedded and other types of software is not a simple matter; and that, for the sake of clarity, a simple approach would be best. We received advice that our recommendation to include computer programs among the inventions that may not be patented would be unlikely to prevent the granting of patents for inventions involving embedded software.»

Now that the decision has been taken remains to be seen what will be the reaction in the rest of the world and what will be the position taken by the judges who will have to deal with conflicts on software patents in New Zealand. The Law kiwi, as it has been called, it will not go unnoticed.