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The Institute of IT Professionals, New Zealand's largest IT representative body, strongly supports the Government's announcement today clarifying that software will not be patentable in New Zealand, removing a major barrier to software-led innovation.
IITP chief executive Paul Matthews said today that while the Institute supports Intellectual Property protection in general, the consensus amongst IT Professionals was that the patent system simply doesn't work for software. Thus today's announcement from Commerce Minister Foss was warmly welcomed.
"The Institute acknowledges this is a complex issue with many arguments for and against patentability of software. However on balance, it is in New Zealand's best interests for software to continue to be covered through the provisions of Copyright in the same way movies and books are, rather than through the patent system which has significant problems," Matthews said.
Discussion on the Patents Bill, currently before Parliament, has been ongoing. In 2010 the Commerce Select Committee considered the issue in depth and unanimously recommending that software not be patentable. This resulted in significant lobbying from patent lawyers and others. In 2012 Minister Foss released a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) that many believed could reverse this position. However today's SOP from the Minister makes the intentions of the law very clear.
"The Institute thanks Minister Foss for responding to industry concerns, clarifying the Patents Bill's intention to remove patentability of software and for taking extra steps to ensure the law around software patents is clear and unambiguous," Matthews said. "Software will not be patentable in New Zealand and a major barrier to software innovation has been removed".
"We also acknowledge the work of United Future's Peter Dunne, Labour's Clare Curran and other political parties who have listened to the industry's concerns and contributed towards a solution," Matthews said. "It's great that all parties support software-led innovation in New Zealand."
While not unanimous, there is strong consensus from the industry against software patents. "In a recent poll of over 1000 New Zealand IT Professionals across the sector, around 94% of those with a view wanted to see software patents gone," Matthews said. Separately, a petition launched by the industry against software patents received over 1,000 signatures in under a week.
"The patent system doesn't work for software. We believe it's near impossible for software to be developed without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents awarded around the world, often for 'obvious' work," Matthews said. "Thus many software companies in New Zealand, creating outstanding and innovative software, live with a constant risk that their entire business could be threatened due to litigious action by a patent holder."
Ian McCrae, chief executive of New Zealand's largest software exporter Orion Health agreed, saying today "We welcome this announcement. Under the current regime, obvious things are getting patented. You might see a logical enhancement to your software, but you can't do it because someone else has a patent. In general, software patents are counter-productive, often used obstructively and get in the way of innovation. We are a software company and as such, our best protection is to innovate and innovate fast."
John Ascroft, Chief Innovation Officer of Jade Corporation said "We believe the patent process is onerous, not suited to the software industry, and challenges our investment in innovation."
Orion and Jade together account for around 50% of software exports from New Zealand.
About the Institute of IT Professionals (IITP)
The Institute of IT Professionals is the professional body for those working in the Information Technology industry. With thousands of members nationwide, the Institute is the largest IT representative body in New Zealand.
The Institute works closely with Industry, Government and Academia however is a fully independent non-profit body; founded, operated and governed by IT Professionals. The Institute has been the voice of the IT Profession for over 50 years.