Slashdot links to a Computer World NZ article that explains how a new bill being proposed to overhaul patent law in New Zealand would explicitly exclude patents on software. Software would still be protectable by copyright, which is the basis of most if not all free software and open source licenses, and contract terms.
The article further explains this is an extension of thinking about what is obvious to someone reasonable skilled in a field. Working programmers and computer scientists are often amongst the most vocal critics of software patents since they more often than not interfere with creating new software rather than encouraging it.
There are still some issues to be worked out around embedded software. It could be considered to be part of a machine if bundled into an appliance as firmware. I wonder how that would play out with open source that is frequently used in such applications, like busybox or more interestingly OpenSSL which is used both in embedded and regular software.
It remains to be seen how far the bill gets, it is only a draft at the moment. That the legislation has this key clause, number 15, is encouraging if it it doesn’t pass further muster.