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Kiwis (finally) confirm software ban under new patent law

Lone stand or first domino?

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It's taken five years, but New Zealand's parliament has finally passed its long-awaited patent reform, which among other things makes it clear that a bit of code isn't enough to attract patent protection.

The tortuous history of the new Patents Bill has seen IT companies lobbying on both sides of the debate. Local kiwi firms were strong supporters of the bill, while internationals like Microsoft and Dell lobbied against it.

The NZTIA still retains its set against the software patent ban, calling it a “fly in the ointment”, but welcomed the rest of the bill.

As previously reported in El Reg, there was also an outbreak of hair-splitting over whether attempts to retain protection for software that's part of an embedded system was going to expose the bill to too many lawsuits.

The final bill retains the once-controversial wording that a claim isn't eligible for patents if it “relates to a computer program as such”, but with an explanatory note in the bill that if the only novel aspect is the software, then it can't be patented.

The bill, which will come into force in August 2014, received nearly unanimous support in the parliament. ®

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