Clueless Minister stifles software sector
Clare Curran | Monday, September 3, 2012 - 10:57
Our growing innovative software industry has been dealt a cruel blow which will compromise and stifle its potential, says Clare Curran, Labour’s communications and IT spokesperson.
The National Government’s decision to open the door to the patenting of computer software winds back a simple but vital change to our little known patent law, which has undergone its first review since 1953.
Craig Foss’s decision is a major back-down on the stance taken by the previous Commerce Minister Simon Power to back the unanimous decision of the Commerce Select Committee, following clear advice from officials.
The Patents Bill proposed to exclude computer software from being patentable, because like books, movies or music, it can be protected under copyright law. This was a ground-breaking position which has been generally applauded by the burgeoning New Zealand ICT sector.
The Select Committee accepted that new software inventions are regularly built on existing software, and that software patents were often granted for “trivial or existing techniques.”
The Committee found that using intellectual property in a fair and reasonable manner would promote Kiwi innovation and build advanced industries.
“The last minute amendment by the Government so that software “as such” can’t be patented, but inventions that include software can be, opens the door to widespread patenting of software. The Minister has caved in to pressure from big corporations which fear competition from smaller players.
“That’s a slap in the face to the local industry, and many innovative Kiwi software firms will now face real challenges to develop new software.
“The Minister should have stuck to his predecessor’s plan to get the Intellectual Property Office to develop guidelines for inventions that involves ‘embedded software’, or software that is built into a physical device. That would have been a reasonable solution which would have promoted innovation in one of New Zealand’s emerging industries.
“Labour’s policy is to enact and implement the Patent Bill excluding computer software. That will give our software innovators the best chance to succeed,” says Clare Curran.