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Labour amendment looks to fix patent loophole

Communications and IT Spokesperson
11 September 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT
Labour amendment looks to fix patent loophole

Labour has moved to combat an ambiguously worded Government amendment to the Patents Bill which would effectively stifle New Zealand’s important software sector.

Labour’s ICT spokesperson Clare Curran said it had tabled an alternative amended clause, aimed at clarifying the intent of the legislation, which is to exclude software from being patentable.

“Craig Foss’ decision to amend the Bill – which originally proposed excluding computer software from being patentable, because like books, movies or music, it can be protected under copyright law – is badly worded and will provide a disincentive for innovation in the New Zealand software industry.

“It opens the door to the patenting of computer software and winds back a simple but vital change to our little known patent law. The Foss amendment makes the intent of the Bill ambiguous, will require the Courts to interpret the law’s meaning and will have a chilling effect on the software industry.

“Our clause, which is backed by the vast majority of New Zealand’s innovators, stipulates that a computer program ‘does not prevent an invention that makes use of an embedded computer program from being patentable’. It leaves the boundaries of embedded software to be determined by the Government on a case-by-case basis as appropriate.”

Ms Curran said while Labour’s amendment would allow bigger companies such as Jade and Orion - New Zealand’s two largest software exporters - to continue doing what they do best, it would also encourage smaller companies to develop software to help build the sector.

“Labour will support the Patents Bill at the second reading, but if our amendment is not accepted we will vote against the Bill at the third reading.

“New Zealand is becoming known as a place where software developers can develop their ideas without patent cases being brought against them as a defensive mechanism.

“We don’t need the Government doing anything that might jeopardise that,” said Clare Curran.

SOP (pdf)

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