White House renews patent trolls fight with new executive actions

New recommendations from the Obama administration include expanded pro bono legal help for inventors and crowdsourcing prior art.

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The White House made a public pledge last June to thwart patent trolls, and now the Executive Branch is renewing that promise with new executive actions as well as a follow-up on previous ones.

Published on Thursday, here's an overview of the three additional executive actions that are intended to both protect the U.S. patent system while also fostering innovation:

  • Updating and exploring other ways for the public to submit (or "crowdsource") prior art. The Obama adminstration defined prior art as "technical information" that could be used to help patent officers determine whether or not an invention submitted for a patent is novel or not.
  • Expanding the America Invents Act pro bono program to cover all 50 states as well as the appointment of a Pro Bono Coordinator for organizing educational and other resources to assist inventors without access to legal representation
  • A call for innovators and patent holders to volunteer their time and expertise in guiding patent examiners at the United States Patent and Trademark Office

While also asserting that it is urging Congress to pass legislation designed to curtail patent-related lawsuits, the White House also provided an update on some of the previous executive actions on this front.

For example, the USPTO has appointed three new scholars to do a deeper study on the existing patent system for the purpose of determining where to reduce "unnecessary litigation and improve the quality of issued patents."

In a number of cases designed with retail, trade, and consumers in mind, the Obama administration said it has (or is in the process) of publishing a number of different guidelines and pilot programs that are said to offer "clearer language" and more transparency about the patent process.

For retail in particular, the White House is launching an online portal this week with a toolkit aimed to nip costly litigation processes in the bud altogether.

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