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New Zealand Passes Landmark Patent Law Reform

Issued: December 04 2013

New Zealand recently passed the Patents Act 2013, overhauling and modernizing the old law, which dated to 1953. The new act is designed to provide better service to the country’s patent regime, making it consistent with other developed countries.


The new act settles the debate on whether computer software should be patentable or not. The provisions stipulate certain requirements for portability, instead of posing a complete ban on all computer programmes. The software that improves the way a product works should be patentable as a new process while those that involve only routine programming steps would be unlikely to be granted patentability.


Among the provisions introduced in the new act, an “absolute novelty” standard is used to judge any invention and novelty. The prior art base includes information made publicly available anywhere in the world would be included. The examination of the patent application will take longer as the inventive step is not assessed under the current law.


“The new act updates New Zealand patent law by introducing examination for obviousness, automatic publication at 18 months, and absolute novelty,” Kate McHaffie, a senior associate at AJ Park in Wellington, wrote on the firm’s website. “Notable changes include a broadened 'contrary to morality' objection provision, and a limitation on the patentability of computer software. How these changes will be applied in practice-and the impact of them-remains to be seen.”


The new act will be in effect on September 13, 2014. Any patent application filed before the date will be considered under the current patentability standard. 


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