As we wait for the Bilski ruling in the US (which my gut feeling tells me will have the Supreme Court totally punt on the issue of software patents), it seems like politicians down in New Zealand have figured out that software patents are a real problem. As a whole bunch of you sent in, a bill is moving through the process for patent reform that explicitly says software should not be patentable:
We recommend amending clause 15 to include computer programs among inventions that may not be patented. We received many submissions concerning the patentability of of computer
programs. Under the Patents Act 1953 computer programs can be patented in New Zealand […] Open source, or free, software has grown in popularity since the 1980s. Protecting software by patenting it is inconsistent with the open source model and its proponents oppose it. A number of submitters argue that there is no “inventive step” in software development, as “new” software inevitably builds on existing software. They felt that computer software should be exluded from patent protection as software patents can stifle innovation and competition, and can be granted for trivial or existing techniques. In general we accept this position.
This is a welcome development, certainly. Even more impressive is the general realization (often missed by politicians) that too much patenting is a bad thing and can seriously stifle innovation:
[the old act] has a low threshold for patentability compared with most other countries. This low threshold can lead to broader patent rights being granted in New Zealand than in other countries, which can disadvantage New Zealand businesses and consumers[…] This can discourage innovation and inhibit growth in productivity and exports.
Now if only New Zealand would recognize similar problems with copyright law as well…