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New Zealand passes law banning software patents

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A bill banning the use and enforcement of software patents passed through the New Zealand parliament yesterday nearly unopposed, preventing software developers in the region from monopolizing specific designs and concepts.

The bill, which was approved upon its third reading in parliament by a margin of 117 votes for and just four against, repeals New Zealand's Patents Act 1953, which "has a low threshold for patentability compared with most other countries," according to the text of the bill. That low threshold can "discourage innovation and inhibit growth in productivity and exports," the bill reads, by allowing software developers to prevent other creators from utilizing broad design ideas that they've managed to secure a patent for.

In an interview with GamePlanet, Mario Wynands, manager of New Zealand's largest game developer PikPok, praised the bill for allowing developers in the country to have total freedom over the ideas they want to include in their games.

"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," Wynands said.

The issue of software patents is an important one to developers across the globe — last December, Minecraft creator Markus Persson donated $250,000 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for its Defend Innovation initiative, which seeks to reform how software patents are obtained and exercised.