After five years of Parliamentary debate, and careful analysis of the international treaties it was beholden to, New Zealand has formally enacted legislation banning software patents.
New Zealand's tech sector leaders have routinely expressed their concern over software patents' restrictive impact on innovation, but the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) left lawmakers with few options. This week, a precisely-worded piece of legislation effectively absolved New Zealand of its treaty obligations and paved the way for a ban on software patents.
According to Ars Technica, the definitive clause within the newly-adopted patent bill states that a computer program should not be recognized as "an invention" or "manner of manufacture." As a result, only software patents directly tied to hardware innovations and patentable business processes will remain valid intellectual assets.
This groundbreaking development has also added new significance to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released earlier in the month. According to The Washington Post, there were a number of strong, positive correlations suggesting that the software industry may be the root cause of the patent system's most enduring problems. The issues experienced by New Zealand and the U.S. are not entirely analogous, of course, but the Oceanic country has revealed a path that could well inspire countries around the world to investigate their options.