White House renews patent trolls fight with new executive actions

White House renews patent trolls fight with new executive actions

Summary: 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.

Topics: Government US, Legal, Patents, Tech Industry

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7 comments
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  • Good news

    The squeaky wheel is getting some long needed grease. Software patents still need to be abolished, but that will take an act of Congress and will be fought tooth and nail by a number of large, wealthy corporations whose executives should know better.
    John L. Ries
    • Don't worry.

      Soon enough, you won't need acts of congress at all anymore for anything.
      baggins_z
    • Eliminating software patents would mean that,

      companies such as Google and Microsoft and Apple and IBM and Twitter and Facebook, and any company that develops software, would not even exist.

      If software were to be available for anybody to copy, we'd end up with millions of copies of Windows or iOS or Mac OS or Office or any piece of software. But, why would anybody even care to develop any piece of software to begin with? If the profit motive is eliminated via the elimination of patents, then, why would anybody even care to be creative in the software arena? People would have to become dependent on strictly free software or donation-ware, or would just have to build their own as needed for their own consumption. Hundreds of millions of jobs would be eliminated around the world, since, most software developers and users work for others that depend on that software. In fact, if software patents had been banned from the beginning, chances are that, we'd still be back in the pre-PC and in the Atari curiosity era.
      adornoe
      • Sure they would

        MS and many other software companies existed and prospred long before the legal precedents requiring software patents to be granted were established. Has progress in the computing arts and sciences accelerated since 1992? And if it has, can it be reasonably attributed to software patents? I know of no evidence that would so suggest.
        John L. Ries
      • And even if software were not patentable...

        ...it would still be covered by copyright, just as it was before 1992.
        John L. Ries
  • A great laugh!

    "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"

    Just to be clear: "pro bono" means FREE work. Yeah ... to be a patent LAWYER you not only need a LAW degree, you also MUST have a TECH or SCIENCE degree. Anyone who can get through an engineering or science degree with a GPA high enough to get into law school can ace law school in their sleep.

    And the fact is that MOST tech/science folks who go to law school do so because DESPITE HAVING AN MS OR PhD their career has stalled economically.

    WHICH MEANS that they get the "plum" jobs at the top law firms -- the ones where folks START at around $100k. The ones where lawyers bill around $350/hour AND UP.

    Those firms now ROUTINELY expect 2000 BILLABLE hours per year. Work load is likely in the 60-80 hours per week range. That's not just beginners, it's even PARTNERS.

    And in their SPARE time they are expected to make business contacts for "RAINMAKING". It ain't easy to make the social contacts necessary to land a client that can send half a million a year in legal business to a firm. And that amount wouldn't even cover the salary of TWO full-time lawyers at the firm.

    THOSE folks are going to do VOLUNTEER work ... SURE.

    And regarding "innovators and patent holders", if they're at corporations they have to answer to shareholders for their time and if they're solos, they're probably just scraping by.

    GREAT plan!
    Rick_R
  • Utter spineless BS

    They should take the bull by the horns and addredss the core values of patents.
    (1) With the exception of the originator, patent owners should only be entitled to compensation if they themselves are producing goods/services from that patent. This stops squirrelling.
    Steve__Jobs