After five years of debate, local lawmakers have finally passed a new Patents Bill that will ban the enforcement of software patents in New Zealand.

Commerce Minister Craig Foss called the decision a “significant step” towards driving software innovation in New Zealand.

“By clarifying the definition of what can be patented, we are giving New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovations,” Foss said.

“The patents system doesn’t work for software because it is almost impossible for genuine technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist, often for very obvious work,” said Institute of IT Professionals chief executive Paul Matthews.

Local game developers also welcomed today’s 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 New Zealand’s largest development studio, 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.”