TPP may force New Zealand to amend software patent law

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a free trade deal negotiated between 12 countries around the Pacific Ocean.

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry won't say whether New Zealand's laws on software patents will need to be overhauled if agreement is reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Parliament passed a law that outlawed software patents "as such" in 2013. The wording of the law change was a compromise that resulted from years of tortuous debate.

Trade magazine CIO reported that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) leaks suggested Mexico was now the only country against allowing software to be patented.

Protesters campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Hawaii on Wednesday, near a hotel where the trade ...

Protesters campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Hawaii on Wednesday, near a hotel where the trade negotiations are taking place.

A ministry spokeswoman responded that it would not comment on TPP leaks.

Software patents are controversial in the information technology industry because of concerns they have had the effect of stifling rather than rewarding creativity and innovation.

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Open Source Software Association president Dave Lane said he was concerned by the suggestion New Zealand trade negotiators might have already have thrown in their hand.

"Software patents are an impediment to software development and make it open to unlimited liability, he said.

"You cannot write software without infringing on someone's patent in the United States; it is just impossible. In the US the average cost of defending a patent claim is $3 million."

Lane said it was "abhorrent" that the TPP negotiations were being conducted in secret.

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Software patents are another potential fishhook in the trade negotiations, which hold out the prospect of improving access to Kiwi agricultural exports but which have have polarised New Zealand business interests.  

There are also concerns that the TPP could raise the price of some drugs, stymie the Government's ability to finance and otherwise assist state-owned enterprises and may include other intellectual property protections that could broadly disadvantage New Zealand's information technology and creative industries.  

The ministry spokeswoman said New Zealand was arguing for an agreement on intellectual property that reflected the country's practices, promoted innovation and economic growth, and balanced the interests of rightsholders and users.

 - Stuff

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