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Obama Targets Patent Trolls with Proposed Legislative Changes


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

President Obama has today announced a set of executive actions directed at cracking down on patent-holding firms that interfere with competition and abuse the patent system, reports The Wall Street Journal. Many technology companies, such as Apple, have dealt with multiple lawsuits from so-called "patent trolls," which aim to make money through licensing fees.
Mr. Obama's actions, which include measures he wants Congress to consider, are intended to target firms that have forced technology companies, financial institutions and others into costly litigation to protect their products. These patent-holding firms amass portfolios of patents more to pursue licensing fees than to build new products.

The firms say they are doing nothing wrong, just using patents that were legally granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They say they promote a fair market by protecting smaller inventors.
Obama has constructed a five-step plan with a total of seven legislative changes, which will be released as part of a White House report on patent trolls. The plan includes a recommendation that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office create rules that require patent owners to be identified and a request for Congress to pass legislation that puts sanctions on questionable lawsuits filed by patent-holding firms.

Additionally, Obama hopes to cut down on the International Trade Commission's involvement in patent disputes. Claims filed with the ITC are often resolved more quickly than standard federal lawsuits.
The Obama administration would like Congress to change certain ITC legal standards and ensure that the agency has flexibility in hiring its judges. The president will order a review of existing procedures at the ITC, officials said.
Reliance on the ITC has not been limited to patent trolls, as a number technology companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google have increasingly used the International Trade Commission to settle a number of patent disputes.

According to President Obama, patent-holding firms are a drain on progress. The firms, he says, "don't actually produce anything themselves. They're just trying to essentially leverage and hijack someone else's idea to see if they can extort some money out of them."

Over the years, Apple has faced litigation from a number of patent-holding companies like Lodsys, which has targeted app developers over in-app purchases, and VirnetX, a company that was awarded $368.2 million over VPN connectivity in Facebook in 2012.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the comment thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All MacRumors forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: Obama Targets Patent Trolls with Proposed Legislative Changes


macrumors 68000
Jul 12, 2011
This sounds like the kind of legislation that takes a hell of a long time to implement....


macrumors regular
Nov 28, 2012
It'd be great if this was really thorough legislation that really worked...but...well, knowing the US Government...


macrumors 6502a
Jan 16, 2011
This is good news. The patent system in the U.S. is broken and needs to be fixed.


macrumors 65816
Feb 4, 2011
But what will MR post about? This eliminates about 65% of front page posts! ;)


macrumors 6502
Nov 22, 2002
Hah, it's so funny how a president gets in a scandal or two and then suddenly his smiling face starts appearing on every web site in the world with him suddenly making various announcements about this that and other -- anything to create news that is different from the scandal news :)

I don't mean that in negative way. although I do suppose it is a bit sad...


macrumors 6502a
Oct 7, 2011
He can propose whatever he wants, it has to pass Congress, which should only happen by the time Haley's comet comes around.


macrumors 68020
Aug 17, 2009
The simplest place to start, to throttle the trolls, is to force them to prove they are developing the concept. A patent that is not being directly used by the holder or an affiliate of the holder should expire in two years unless the interested party can demonstrate ongoing R&D.

I WAS the one

macrumors 6502a
May 16, 2006
HELL YEAH! I believe you should patent what you already made not what you dream to make.


macrumors 68020
Apr 15, 2004
Washington DC
What, specifically, is broken about the patent system?

That it's profitable for a group of investors to buy up vague, poorly written patents from holders/companies that no longer use them/care about them and then sue everyone who is even close to violating them in the hopes that they pay up rather then fight.

If you think these patent holding companies are benefiting the original holder then you are mistaken. They often are bought for next to nothing.

As others have mentioned - patents are to protect not to be bought by shell companies to punish others.

It's not just the holding companies to blame - Apple, Google and just about every technology giant are just as guilty too. They buy patents to keep others from using them. Similiar to what AT&T/Verizon do with wireless spectrum.


Staff member
Jan 20, 2005
He can propose whatever he wants, it has to pass Congress, which should only happen by the time Haley's comet comes around.

Not entirely true. He's proposing some executive actions, which do not need to pass Congress. He's also proposing some legislative actions, which obviously would involve Congress.


macrumors 68000
Jun 28, 2011
Hmmm, guess he was listening to "This American Life" Last weekend.

Amazing how people fight over utter nonsense while this stuff goes on.


macrumors 68040
May 28, 2008
If you patent something, you better have it working somehow...hardware wise. You patent software, after a few years (say 5 due to how rapidly software advances) it expires and is granted universal cross-licensing fees.

If you go bankrupt or something like that, that patent expires and it cannot be re-filed by another company. I think this would be a good start.


macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
New England, USA
Geez, doesn't the Government have anything better to do than...wait...

Pretty good idea if it can get past...well... some other people!

Not bad for a born Muslim...I mean the President.:p

;) :D


macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
It's not his only action he's ever done right...

Certainly it's the biggest thing he's ever done right, or at least it sounds like it from this article. I'll have to see what exactly he is proposing first.

Other things he has done did a lot more wrong than this did right, though.


macrumors 603
Dec 19, 2004
Hopefully it is better than the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act he signed. Which made the system even worse by changing it from first to invent to first to file. Now you don't even have to create something just file the idea. Which I thought it was that way already. I guess I was wrong.

Perhaps we should just file for all the ideas that are found in Sci Fi. That way by the time they are actually created they are not patentable and any existing patents have long since expired:rolleyes:.

Personally I think high tech electronic and software patents should be limited to one or two years. After a year new tech is old news. But a long standing tech patent holds up progress.

It's not the same as other fields since adoption rates and changes are so fast in the tech field. Unlike say farming equipment where a new device can take years to reach market adoption.

Another problem I did not hear addressed. Is how tech patents seem to keep getting reissued. I know there has been a lot of patents in the news that make no sense. As earlier cruder devices and software existed in the 70's or 80's which they battle over a recently issued patent for the same concept.


macrumors 68000
Oct 9, 2010
Hah, it's so funny how a president gets in a scandal or two and then suddenly his smiling face starts appearing on every web site in the world with him suddenly making various announcements about this that and other -- anything to create news that is different from the scandal news :)

I don't mean that in negative way. although I do suppose it is a bit sad...
Scandals? What scandals? Check President Obama's job approval polls. Hasn't dropped an inch. They're only scandals in the fevered minds of Republicans. The rest of us see through all of the bloviating coming from the right.


macrumors 6502
Apr 26, 2011
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Obama is the head of the executive branch, is he not? That is not how laws are supposed to be created.

Putting all that "checks and balances" nonsense aside, since it's obviously not important anymore, what do you suppose his motivation is for this order? To draw attention away from his numerous scandals? Lobbying from Google (remember his connections to Eric Schmidt)?

Watch very carefully.
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