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President takes on patent trolls, pushes for 'smarter patent laws'

Obama issues five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations to tackle companies that sue only for the sake of revenue-generation.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

As expected, President Obama has come out today in full force against so-called "patent trolls."

In a statement released on Tuesday by the White House, the president issued five executive actions it'll take against companies that collect patents for the sole purpose of licensing them and suing other companies that may or may not be violating them. The administration has ordered that patent owners regularly update their ownership information so they can't hide patents in other entities. It has also requested that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) enhance employee training to decrease chances of broad patents being approved.

The other actions revolve around improved education and training for citizens, entrepreneurs, and USPTO workers, and ensuring that the U.S. International Trade Commission's power to bar the importation of goods to the U.S. is proper and the process behind that action is "transparent, effective, and efficient."

But the president wasn't done. In his statement he asked Congress to get to work at improving the patent system in the U.S. by changing the way product injunctions are awarded and increase transparency across the board, among other recommendations.

"What we need to do is pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws," Obama said in February, leading to the announcement of these latest rules.

Patent trolls are not very well-liked in the technology industry. For years, companies have said that the trolls generate revenue through the use of broad patents, and along the way, they stifle innovation. It's a comment with which the White House and organizations like The Internet Association, which tries to protect companies against patent trolls, agree.

"The Internet Association applauds the executive actions on high-tech patents announced by the White House today and we echo the president's call for legislation to put patent trolls out of business for good," The Internet Association wrote in an e-mailed statement to CNET on Tuesday. "As the president said, patent trolls are nothing more than extortionists, abusing the court system to shake down innocent inventors, entrepreneurs and end users."