But there was a spanner in the works. It turns out that most software patents in New Zealand aren't filed by New Zealand programmers. They're done by multinationals - the Microsoft's of the world. So representatives of these interests kept up a great big FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) campaign. Software Inventors wouldn't be protected!
The New Zealand industry believes that copyright is all the protection we need. Firstly, software is cumulative. Secondly, a 25 year patent only serves to stifle the industry - counter to the intention behind patents (that an entity should enjoy a limited monopoly for their invention to encourage them to invest in advancing it).
So most in New Zealand agree, software shouldn't be patentable. Except... Craig Foss, minister of commerce, has been drinking some body's Kool-Aid. He introduced two words, "As Such" to the bill. The words are interesting. Take this example:
Craig Foss is not corrupt as such.Those two words can change the meaning quite a bit. But, more importantly, there are examples where this terminology has been ineffective in accomplishing the goal of making software unpatentable. The European Union have used just that wording and it's failed. Miserably.
The more interesting bit is that Craig Foss is ignoring the evidence presented to him around the mess that the European Union have found themselves in, and still believes that he is excluding software from patentability. The letters I've seen to other people suggest that he is relying solely on advisers - and is quite willing to offload any responsibility their way.
The other parties in parliament have come out against Craig Foss' changes. Clare Curren, Labour's ICT Spokesperson, has even suggested alternative wording. But no cigar.
This is a problem I have with party politics. It seems to me that a lot of the time a good idea is thrown out because of it's source. Surely a good idea is a good idea.
It seems to me that Craig Foss is now standing very stubbornly trying to prove he's right while he fields questions around why he's ignoring the evidence of this approach not working,
So New Zealand has the opportunity to do something right. The two sides (and numbers don't seem to count in this fight) are squaring off against each other. Now... how do you fight a minister's ego?