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Labour and National’s Patent Battle

Labour and National have found themselves at loggerheads over the Patents Bill and whether it will allow computer programmes and the code that makes up the software to be patented.

The Patents Bill was given its second reading today after a long gestation.

It was originally introduced by the Labour Government in 2008 and was reported back from select committee in 2010.

There was wide agreement with the version of the bill reported back, but it sat on the books until Commerce Minister Craig Foss produced an SOP.

Labour MPs fear the addition of the words ``as such’’ to the end of a clause stating ``a computer program is not a patentable invention’’ to the bill will make software and code patentable.

Foss told Parliament it was important that the patent system was modernised, but also to ensure that it did not allow to broad a patent to be granted.

There was also a need for a balance between protecting intellectual property rights and the public, but he was adamant that there would be no changes to the current status of the patentability of computer programmes.

Labour MP Clare Curran said the amendments proposed by the Government would allow computer programmes to be patented which would prevent development of new programmes. The changes would ``stuff up’’ New Zealand’s software sector.

The Government was ignoring the advice of the select committee and multi-nationals would be able to get patents or tie software developers in patent wars, she said.

Labour MPs said they would only support the bill if an amendment clarifying the issue in the name of Curran was accepted by National.

The bill was given its second reading by on a voice vote.

MPs began the third reading of the Biosecurity Law Reform Bill.


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