I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of patent trolls suddenly cried out in terror as they were suddenly silenced. I feel something wonderful has happened. Yes, while you were sleeping, New Zealand’s parliament passed a major new patent bill that will see all software patents banned forever in the country.
The new bill states that a computer program is not an invention and as such is unable to be patented. Now, we aren’t lawyers but we understand this bill is designed to block the patenting of actual computer programs — any innovations in the logic behind computer programs will continue to be protected under the country’s copyright law. As ArsTechnica puts it:
Processes will still be patentable if the computer program is merely a way of implementing a patentable process. But patent claims that cover computer programs “as such” will not be allowed.
Also, it should be noted the law only applies for new software patents going forward. Software patents that have already been issued will still be applicable — you just won’t be able to get new software patents.
“It is a really strong signal that we’re serious about protecting innovators and about making NZ a really good place to run a tech company… We’ve already been approached by overseas, primarily US based companies, who’re looking very seriously about relocating to NZ, and one of the key reasons being because of things like the patent law” says Paul Matthews, chief executive at The Institute of IT Professionals. Matthews also tweeted to show his happiness: “Software patents are now disallowed in New Zealand. #Historic #Awesome #Yay.”
New Zealand’s new law brings the country more in line with other countries in Europe that have rejected software patents from companies such as Apple, although some may argue it may be an extreme. We expect other countries to study New Zealand as a model and, if successful, pave the way to make a change in their own nations.