Some great news from the EFF regarding the ongoing battle against patent trolls. The White House has waded into the fight with some legislative ideas as well as five executive actions. Julie Samuels sums them up for the EFF:
- Tighten functional claiming: requiring patent applicants to explain their inventions better and to limit those inventions to a specific way of accomplishing a task, as opposed to all ways of accomplishing a task. This is an important (and obvious) fix that should help stem the tide of overbroad software patents and increase patent quality.
- Fix transparency: requiring patent owners to update records at the Patent Office with the patent’s real owner. Taking away secrecy takes away one of the patent troll’s favorite weapons.
- Empower downstream users: ending the abuse associated with targeting end users, such as small businesses, startups, and even individuals who find themselves facing lawsuit threats and licensing demands for simply using everyday products. As the White House puts it: “End-users should not be subject to lawsuits for simply using a product as intended, and need an easier way to know their rights before entering into costly litigation or settlement.” We couldn’t agree more.
- Expand dedicated outreach and study: working with members of the community, including third-party stakeholders, to address flaws in the system. This would include increasing scholarly programs at the Patent Office, something that if done right could have a direct positive effect on patent quality by bringing in big thinkers to address systemic problems at that office.
- Strengthen enforcement of exclusion orders: streamlining procedures for imported goods that are found to infringe U.S. patents.
This sounds like a great stop gap while we debate the merits of software patents1. These things take time after all.
- or patents in general for that matter [↩]
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