Sixty years after New Zealand’s last Patents Act was enacted, and five years in the making, we have new patent legislation. The new legislation was finally passed by Parliament on 28 August 2013.

The Patents Bill was introduced into Parliament in 2008. It had a somewhat chequered history, largely due to an ongoing debate over the patentability of software. When the Bill was reported back from Select Committee stage, the Committee recommended that patents for computer software should not be allowed. There was then a further change, designed to allow so-called “embedded software”. The final wording of the new Patents Act, agreed upon by most of the political parties, provides that a computer program “as such” is not a patentable invention. The wording is similar to that used in European patent law.

One of the other significant changes in the new Act is the introduction of a Māori advisory committee, which will advise the Commissioner of Patents whether an invention that is the subject of a patent application is derived from Māori traditional knowledge or uses indigenous plants or animals. The committee will advise on whether such inventions might be contrary to Māori values.

The Patents Act will not come into force immediately. We are awaiting the drafting of regulations, which will include further detail on some of the procedural changes contained in the Act.

The new Patents Act has been greatly anticipated by IP professionals and interest groups alike, and will undoubtedly be an important cog in New Zealand’s innovation economy.