Software developers and patent trolls take note: the New Zealand government has passed a law that essentially makes the practice of patenting software illegal and unenforceable in the region. The law, which was under consideration and amended several times over the last five years, repeals and replaces the Patents Act 1953, which was based on the United Kingdom Patents Act 1949.
Because that law had such a low threshold for patentability compared to other countries, it made it easier to secure broader patent rights in New Zealand. Ultimately law makers felt that this put New Zealand developers, businesses, and consumers at a disadvantage.
In announcing the passage of the bill, New Zealand Commerce Minister Craig Foss said that these changes to patent laws in the country will give "New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovation."
Speaking to GamePlanet, New Zealand-based game developer PikPok welcomed the news:
"The software patent ban in New Zealand is a great step towards the legal system and government in general supporting the software industry, and is a sign of recognition for how software innovation actually occurs," said Mario Wynands, managing director at PikPok. "As you might expect, like many other developers and publishers we have in the past been subjected to spurious and/or blatant troll patent claims, thankfully none of which stuck or had any meaningful negative impact."
"It will be very interesting to see how other markets respond to this move by New Zealand," Wynands told Gameplanet. "We are aware of major patents in the gaming space such as the ‘Ghost Car’ patent currently held by Warner Bros., and the "loading screen minigame’ patent held by Namco, which we consciously stay away from as do others. Not being restricted by those patents downstream could certainly help make our games and those of others better."
You can read the entire law here.