Government // Leadership
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2/21/2014
10:30 AM
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White House Targets Patent Trolls

Obama administration reports progress, announces three new executive actions, to promote patent reform.

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Most Wasteful Government IT Projects Of 2013
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The White House has announced three new executive actions to strengthen the US patent system and combat patent assertion entities (PAEs), more commonly known as patent trolls.

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, National Economic Council director Gene Sperling, federal CTO Todd Park, and USPTO deputy director Michelle Lee took the stage at the White House on Thursday to discuss the progress the administration has made on five executive actions introduced in June 2013.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama stressed the importance of passing legislation to fight patent trolling and limit abusive litigation, where companies seek royalties from unsuspecting product users, or challenge the legitimacy of patents to avoid paying royalties. Patent assertion entities are a drain on the economy, according to a White House report, and hurt companies, the president said.

Echoing the president's sentiments, Park said at Thursday's event, "We care deeply about innovation. Patent trolls hinder rather than help innovation. We have been listening and will continue to take executive action to combat patent trolls."

[The new executive actions are the latest efforts in The White House's War on Patent Trolls.]

The first executive action announced Thursday involves the creation of Crowdsourcing Prior Art, an initiative where companies, experts, and the general public assist patent examiners, holders, and applicants in finding prior art, or technical information that could determine whether an invention is truly original. "This will help our parent examiners determine whether an invention is worthy of a patent," said Pritzker.

Image courtesy of Flickr - Libby Levi for OpenSource.com
Image courtesy of Flickr - Libby Levi for OpenSource.com

The second action focuses on increasing accessibility of the patent system. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) said it will offer resources to inventors without legal representation. As part of that effort, USPTO will appoint a full-time pro bono coordinator and expand the existing America Invents Act pro bono program to all 50 states.

Third, USPTO will provide patent examiners with more technical training to help them keep up with fast-changing technology fields. USPTO said it wants to make it easier for technologists and engineers to make their expertise available to examiners.

Lee said the administration has made significant progress on the five actions introduced by the president last June. To promote transparency, USPTO recently published a draft rule to ensure that patent owners accurately record and update ownership information involved in proceedings.

USPTO also introduced a training program for examiners looking at claims, and is in the process of launching a pilot program that uses glossaries to promote patent clarity. Delivering on another promise, USPTO has created an online toolkit that answers common patent questions and offers access to other resources.

"We want 2014 to be the year when the president signs patent legislation," said Sperling. "This is an area where there's hope for bipartisan action."

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Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she ... View Full Bio

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WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/24/2014 | 7:42:17 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
Tom, I agree, the idea that tweaks in software code deserve to be patent protected has created a nightmarish situation for patent examiners.
AryehF891
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AryehF891,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/23/2014 | 8:21:11 PM
Re: make money
Also keep in mind that many business school programs teach the idea that patents are offensive weapons to among other things kill competition.  A case in point a friend of a friend has a chip design (and prototyped) that puts 1,000 64 bit cores (not x86 commpatible) on one die (roughtly the same that Intel and AMD are doing and getting 4 or 6 cores).   That patent was blocked because Inetl had somehow patented the idea of multicoe CPU's (despite doing nothing to enforce it against AMD).   This friend of a friend was forced out of business before he even got going (despite the processors where never meant to power a PC or a server)
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
2/22/2014 | 9:04:30 PM
Re: Crowdsourcking patents is a horrible idea
I think that everyone is pretty much tired of patent trolling. It's a real problem that stifles innovation. It also forces technology companies to fork over money for technology that a troll isn't even going to turn into a business idea. Those costs ultimately trickle down into what customers must pay for a service, so I'm all for some reform. 
AryehF891
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AryehF891,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2014 | 7:19:56 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
Being an inventor of about 15 different ideas that where/are patentable but being due to personal circumstances unable to fit in well with the silicon valley crowd lack the contacts needed to get a VC interested in our stuff unless we have at least 4 or 5 the patents actually in hand (or in final filing stages) [far beyond our resources without a $100+k investment for the legal stuff alone and then to justify that total investment would need to be $1+M for an initial target market size of <$100M.   This is the reason we are going with the open source enabled business model (i.e. we sell stuff enabled by our open source work).   See http://www.petitecloud.org/fosok.jsp for more info.

 

The above leads to an ineterestinig modification to the current WH purposal which is widen and deepen the crowd sourcing requirement for small inventors (<10 patents/year... "corporate" inventors are assumed to know what they are doing and will be fined if caught filinig junk patents).   Namely the 1 year buffer I suggested between demo/publication and the end of protection should be used (and required to a limited extent) to allow the iventor to get community feedback on their invention to a) strengthing their claims, b) improve the marketability of the idea and c) give the idea the protection it needs to get VC's interested (note most VC's are not inieterested if you have fewer then 2 or 3 patentable ideas).

 

Under the above the total cost of the 15 patents could be $15k which makes the total investment needed [including the marketing and R&D] be near $150k.   This now brings it witin the range of a highend angel investor or investor group.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/21/2014 | 5:58:45 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
Thanks for sharing your observations here.  We'll keep these in mind as we continue to cover this.
AryehF891
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AryehF891,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2014 | 5:53:20 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
That sites is completely useless for most inventors I think it is all about what to do if some abusive patent holder starts harrsing you and not how to protect your own ideas.
AryehF891
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AryehF891,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2014 | 5:37:42 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
Agreed the law (paraphrased [I am *NOT* an attorney]) says:

 

1. The idea most be novel and non-obvious

2. It must be repeatable (as described) by any one well versted in "the art"

3. Pure Ideas and/or discoveries about nature are *NOT* patentable

 

Under the above rules I would argue that:

 

1. Design patents be elimianated as a catagory (GMA will hate this one as will all the fadish "patent my business model" tricks)

2. Reclassife math/computer science as being a "physical" science in the sense it does control/respond to the real world

3. Require a public demostration of a working prototype and/or scholarly journel publication as being sufficent proof of being novel and non-obvious (doing either one puts a 1 year block on anyone filing for a patent but the author/demostrator)
4. Claims be limited to what can be directly observed as a result of the described process

5. The inventor's attorney must be a subject field expert (for example our attorney also has a BA in CS... but method of knowledge aquistion not be dictated) and anything that fails the novel and non-obvious test is usable as cause for action by the Bar and/or the PTO against the attorney.

 

<Added after replies made>

 

6. The subject matter/claims of the patent must not contain classified and/or other restricted knowledge

7. The peroid of exclusive use should be shortened to 5 years (you still have the 17 years of protection) after which anyone one who wants to use the patent can license it for a reasonable fee/commission (universities/goverment agencies [ex. NASA] often just sit on patents doing nothing with them and some cases even effectively blocking their use with insane fees like 1/3 of gross revenue and/or preventing facility members from having commerical ineterests {Univ. of Ca. is one of the worst hear and MIT one of the best}) for the 17 years of protection (maybe even grow it to 20 years)
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/21/2014 | 5:04:23 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
Thanks for sharing your story. I'm sure you're not alone in experiencing how inventive ideas can get blocked because of overly general patents held by companies w/ deep pockets. 

I'd be interested in your thoiughts on how useful the new "Patent Litigation" toolkit is on  the USPTO site, that I understand is a first for USPTO in helping business with some of these issues.  See http://www.uspto.gov/patents/litigation/index.jsp

 
Thomas Claburn
IW Pick
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/21/2014 | 5:03:47 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
Individual inventors with truly novel ideas deserve patent protection. But no one seems willing to address the possibility that much of what is currently patentable should not be patentable at all. The notion that Amazon could patent purchasing an item with a single click is absurd. Business method patents for software should not exist.
AryehF891
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AryehF891,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2014 | 4:09:31 PM
Re: There is no protect for little guys
Large companies often purposely over generalize their claims so that they include areas that are not even in the domain of the original patent.   For example the company I worked for in the mid-90's was blocked from a key patent for video compression because some Sony patent for audo enhancement (which required even more data to be sent) managed to claim that a optional component (not present in their "working prototype" [they never publically demostrated this as far we know]) without this the style of video compression we had in mind was impossible [even to this day compression can be improved 5 to 10 times].
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