White House takes a stand on tech patent wars with several recommendations

White House takes a stand on tech patent wars with several recommendations

Summary: The Obama administration is setting up a new task force to "protect innovators from frivolous litigation."


It has long been arguable that the patent wars permeating the technology sector and beyond have long surpassed a breaking point, but now the U.S. Government is getting more vocal about the issue.

See also: White House nominates venture capitalist as new FCC chairman

In order to spur more technological advancements while hopefully having the side effect of cutting back on these legal battles, the White House is introducing five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations to ensure the "highest-quality" tech patents are issued.

More pointedly, the Obama administration is setting up a new task force to protect innovators from what it described in a letter on Tuesday as "frivolous litigation."

While the memo does exude some diplomatic themes and rhetoric about fostering innovation, the White House doesn't mince words when it comes to the realities (and severity) of the situation, calling out "patent trolls," in particular.

Here's an excerpt from the memo:

The AIA put in place new mechanisms for post-grant review of patents and other reforms to boost patent quality. Meanwhile, court decisions clarifying the scope of patentability and guidelines implementing these decisions diminish the opportunity to game the patent and litigation systems. Nevertheless, innovators continue to face challenges from Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), companies that, in the President’s words “don’t actually produce anything themselves,” and instead develop a business model “to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them.” These entities are commonly known as “patent trolls.” Likewise, the so-called “Smartphone Patent Wars” have ballooned in recent years and today, several major companies spend more on patent litigation and defensive acquisition than on research and development.

The full copy with details about the five executive actions and seven recommentations is available on the White House website now.

Examples of these recommendations are more legal protections for consumers along with imposing more requirements upon anyone calling patent usage into question and/or filing an infringement suit.

The Obama administration has been increasingly vocal on a few different issues pressing the tech industry.

For instance, the White House issued an edict back in March arguing that it's time to legalize cell phone unlocking.

Topics: Government, Government US, Legal, Patents, Tech Industry

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 100 years too late

    Telsa got screwed by JP Morgan this way.
    • And...

      ... so did Tesla.
  • its time to deal with patent trolls

    from the axis of evil software-M$, Oracle & apple through executive order, and stop forever the attacs against FOSS!
    LlNUX Geek
    • Only if it's found the patent violates aren't valid.

      If FOSS software does happen to violate a patent they shouldn't be allowed to continue using it just because it's free and open software. I do agree that they need to come up with a better and quicker way of deciding such matters as well as limiting the scope of things that can be patented.

      Just because I company invests in IP and doesn't manufacture a lot of their own devices doesn't mean they didn't do any real work and shouldn't get paid. That's like saying that anyone who does mostly scientific research for a living doesn't do any real work because they don't make anything.
      Sam Wagner
    • Axis of evil?

      Oh you forgot Google, RedHat, Canonical, ...
      If you think Google never has breen trolling, then you asre heavily mistaken. There are more IP issues involving Google than any other company [except Apple].
      Can you name 5 from Microsoft or Oracle?
      Pathetic of your useless comments.
  • It helps, but...

    He should also propose a bill to Congress that either abolishes or severely restricts software and business method patents and tightens up the standards for granting any patents.
    John L. Ries
    • It's too late

      Big Business, including tech companies that many at ZDNet worship, loves its patents. Big Business also funds politicians in the White House and on Capital Hill that shamelessly do its bidding.

      If the software patent problem is to be fixed, the last hope is with the U.S. Courts that created the mess in the first place. At least judges and justices [mostly] aren't pawns of Big Business.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • He should do it anyway

        It might not pass, but the debate should still be had, which is one of the things the President can and should force.

        I can think of any number of Presidents in my lifetime that have made proposals to Congress they doubted would pass, but they thought were in the public interest, so they made them anyway. Mr. Obama appears to be somewhat shy in that regard, which is a problem (it's one of the things that makes him a weak President).
        John L. Ries
        • Remember Obama's Silicon Valley Dinner in late 2011? In case you don't:



          Interesting reading ... Including the bit about the tech titans that weren't at the dinner and, apparently, already have access to the President. And the amount of money the tech companies spend on lobbying (see the footnote).

          Any changes to software patents will be done to make life easier for tech companies. And that's pretty much what the America Invents Act did. I can't imagine Obama and/or Congress invalidating their software patents in one fell swoop.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Errr.....

            And you think they didn't do the same thing with George W. Bush? In second thought, he doesn't know anything about technology ... unless it's related to the military.
  • Kill patent trolls

    That would be nice, but Intellectual Ventures and Acacia Research will not go down without fighting and bribing sympathetic politicians...
    • Stopping the trolling would be sufficient

      There's no need to execute the trolls, unless they've committed more much more serious crimes.
      John L. Ries
  • Article: "five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations"

    Clearly, the America Invents Act is a POS. As an example, the self-funded U.S. PTO cookie jar is still open for the U.S. Congress to steal cookies from. And as before, they don't even have to leave an IOU (not that it would matter).

    Want high quality patents? Let the U.S. PTO hang onto its funds so that experienced staff members can be retained and new staff can be hired+trained so as to meet demands from patent applicants.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Great

    The best way to **REALLY** screw something up is to get the government involved.
    • The law already exists

      If there are problems with the law, how is government not to be involved?
      John L. Ries
    • Re: The best way to **REALLY** screw something up is to get the government

      The whole concept of "intellectual property" requires active and ongoing Government involvement to prop it up.

      Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?
    • While I may tend to agree with this sentiment for most thing.

      I don't think it really applies to tech companies. If they can't patent things to protect their IP they won't be able to and wouldn't be willing to spend the billions on research they do.
      Sam Wagner
      • Re: and wouldn't be willing to spend the billions on research they do.

        Which company spends "billions" on research?
        • ldo17: "Which company spends "billions" on research?"

          IBM? Microsoft? Intel? Just to name a few.
          Rabid Howler Monkey