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New Zealand Passes Ban on Software Patents

After five years of arduous debate, New Zealand’s Parliament has finally voted to ban software patents. The new legislation states that a computer program is “not an invention,” and 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 the past decade, the number of software patents has increased significantly, accounting for the overall rise in patent troll activity and for the majority of all patents issued in 2011. The law has been five years in the making, but wasn’t seriously considered a viable option until August of last year.

Some are still skeptical of the bill’s potential, though, claiming that there are several loopholes that could make the effort of banning software patents less effective. Patents linked directly to hardware improvements, for example, may still be granted, and the software patents currently in existence will be maintained.

Regardless, it’s a good step in the right direction, helping to fight the issue of patent trolls who use software patents to stir up costly litigation with innovative tech companies. The new legislation will replace the longstanding Patents Act of 1953, with the hopes of giving New Zealand innovators the opportunity to compete with each other and the rest of the world on fair grounds.

“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…In general we accept this position.”

Take a look at the full Patents Bill by clicking here.