IT sector heralds patent legislation

IT sector heralds patent legislation

Several IT organisations have come out in favour of the Patents Act (2013), which has passed its third Parliament reading.

The government began overhauling the law, which dates back to 1953, around ten years ago.

The Institute of IT Professionals was one of many tech organisations that raised issues with the bill, drafted in 2008.

“The patents system doesn’t work for software because it is almost impossible for genuine technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist, often for very obvious work,” the institute's head Paul Matthews says.

A Supplementary Order Paper last August reversed the removal of software patents after the Commerce Select Committee recommended a software patent pan in 2010.

A further Supplementary Order paper in May added a clause saying that a computer program is not an invention and not a "manner of manufacture" for the purposes of the act. "(2) Subsection (1) prevents anything from being an invention or a manner of manufacture for the purposes of this act only to the extent that a claim in a patent or an application relates to a computer program as such," it says.

Commerce minister Craig Foss said in a statement the revised legislation would allow businesses to protect genuine innovations
and flexibility to build on existing inventions.

Commenting on the New Zealand Technology Industry Association website, Intergen chief technology officer Chris Auld said patents reduce the need for secrecy, but sometimes secrecy isn't enough.

"Often patents are the practical way to protect an invention. I’ve seen for myself how patents play an important role in raising capital for high tech Kiwi businesses.

“It would have made absolutely no sense to have an outright ban of patents for true inventions just because there’s a computer involved. Some people might not want to get patents for themselves. I think everyone respects that. But patents for software inventions have raised very significant funds for smaller New Zealand businesses. 

"An outright ban would have taken away the patent option from us, even for the most remarkable discoveries. It would have placed our sector at a significant disadvantage as against other high tech industries in New Zealand.”

Matthews says the legislation will send a message to the world that New Zealand won't tolerate patent trolls - people who create patents so they an later litigate against tech firms.