NZICT says patents 'integral' to software protection

Vendor group says move is a major policy change and calls for wider consultation

IT vendor group NZICT is warning that a move to abandon software patents in New Zealand is "worrying".

A Commerce Select Committee recently recommended the government to remove patent protection for software. However, NZICT chief executive Brett O'Riley says the country's software development sector deserves the same protection as other sectors where invention and innovation occurs.

"Software patents, while acknowledged as a less than perfect solution in some areas, are none-the-less integral to an individual or company's right for commercial protection and essential for competing globally. We believe that it is very important that companies retain the option to protect their innovations under patent law, if that is their choice," he says in a statement.

O'Riley says he is perplexed by the recommendation, as it contravenes current New Zealand economic policy and contradicts the policy to continue software patents which had been confirmed in 2005 after industry consultation.

He also warns that the wider implications of such a law change is inconsistent with the policy of our trade partners and may have an impact on New Zealand's ability to negotiate trade agreements.

"New Zealand's ability to trade and compete internationally in the digital economy depends upon a supportive legislative environment that harnesses and recognises New Zealand ingenuity and innovation," he says.

O'Riley urges the government to rethink the implications of removing software patents if it is serious about supporting New Zealand's innovators and economic growth for the nation.

Abandoning software patents is a major policy change. NZICT is concerned that the software industry has not been consulted sufficiently on this change and recommends the Government be cautious to ensure that it is acting in the interests of the industry as a whole.