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back to article Obama: Just call me Billygoat Gruff the Third, patent trolls

US President Barack Obama is planning to announce a series of executive actions against patent trolls today to stop them from abusing the patent system. Obama has often made his position known on trolls, companies which acquire patents not for the purpose of making products but instead in order to sue someone else who is already …

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Anonymous Coward

There's quite an obvious link with patent trolling and casino style banking. Both are "investments" where you are gambling on if that investment will produce a profit.

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Flame

Pull the other one - its got bells on it!

Obama is going to "do something" - Sure. Just like Obama did with Wall Street, Guantanomo, War on Terror, Foreclosure Fraud .. and so on and so forth: Every opportunity Obama has beeen given to show some character, the eventual outcome has been that lawyered up lobbyists and cronies will get opportunities handed to them in spades from Obama while the public will get pathetic whining about how "Obama's poor hands are tied".

Obama will throw the patent trolls a nice, juicy bone too!

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Re: Pull the other one - its got bells on it!

The Yahoo! comments section is that way >>>

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pull the other one - its got bells on it!

> The Yahoo! comments section is that way >>>

*Whose* comments section?

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Gimp

Re: Pull the other one - its got bells on it!

> *Whose* comments section?

Fox "news"?

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Re: Pull the other one - its got bells on it!

Oh, you mean the English Defence League forums.

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Anonymous Coward

Seemed like a perfectly relevant comment to me

Since the primary subject of the article is about what President Obama is promising to do, it is entirely relevant to point out just how well he has delivered on all the other things he promised to do. Sure, Congress may have the lion's share of the blame for the USG standstill; but I'll be damned if I can think of a single campaign promise that the President I voted for has been able to deliver in the past five years.

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Stop

Re: Seemed like a perfectly relevant comment to me

Let's see... 13 pages of "promises kept", only 6 of "promises broken".

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/rulings/promise-kept/

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/rulings/promise-broken/

overall, he's kept 45% of his promises, compromised on 25% and broken 22%

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/

You have a very selective memory, sir!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Seemed like a perfectly relevant comment to me

Obama can't even get congress to approve any of his appointments. Many positions are unfilled because the the appointee's were blocked by the tea bags. Before last election, the Republicans said that their only goal was to get Obama out of office.

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Re: Seemed like a perfectly relevant comment to me

The economy... Have you not noticed?

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Stop

Just outlaw "Software" and "Method" patents

that's ALL he needs to do.

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Re: Just outlaw "Software" and "Method" patents

And gene patents...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just outlaw "Software" and "Method" patents

"Just outlaw "Software" and "Method" patents - that's ALL he needs to do."

Except for that pesky bit about laws being created by the Legislative branch (the House and the Senate), not by the Executive branch (the President), but hey, we shouldn't have to let a little thing like the Constitution stop us, right?

Blaming the President for bad laws is like blaming your dog because it's raining. Blame the CongressCritters, and better still, if you are an American, write them and vote against them if they don't do what you want.

And no, voting third party is NOT "throwing your vote away" - look at how much more attention the Democrats paid to the Green party after Gore lost - when the Greens made it VERY plain that by Gore not playing ball with their desires, he lost the votes that could have made all the difference. And that is also why the Occupy movement failed: the Democrats said "We can screw you up the ass, make you blow us, and you will still vote for us, so why should we care?", the Republicans said "We could let you screw US up the ass, blow you, and you still won't vote for us, so why do we care?" and the third parties said "Hey, we are willing to talk - guys? Hello? Over here!" and were ignored.

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Re: Just outlaw "Software" and "Method" patents

He doesn't have much in the way of formal power to change the law, but as the de facto leader of the democratic party he still has a lot of influence. If he were to lend his full support to a law, the entire democratic party would have little option but to follow along or risk creating a divide that would harm the party image.

That said, he's still a politician, and politicians do lie. A lot. So I don't really imagine he intends to do anything. Too much lobbyist involvement, and long-term strategic implications to take into consideration - with the US rather lacking in manufacturing now, intellectual property is one of their major exports.

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Anonymous Coward

*Write* to your Congressmen?

We've been trying that for years, and it *doesn't work* unless your letter includes a $100,000 cheque. The American public isn't apathetic about Congress, but nothing it has tried seems to make a difference. There's a good reason that popular opinion of the Congress is at a historical low. As far as I can tell, the only thing that would be likely to change the way Congress behaves would be to completely outlaw financial contributions and strictly (like $100,000) limit campaign spending. But, guess, what? That would require legislation drafted and passed by... you know who. So you can guess what chance it has of passing.

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Happy

Re: *Write* to your Congressmen?

That is patently untrue. If you aren't getting action from your Representative then vote for someone else next time. I do not give political donations but I do interact with my State and Federal Representatives. If you take the time to understand what they can do and how to follow the escalation protocols you will get some action but don't expect your letter to change National policy. That isn't possible, but they can and will do a lot for you.

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Re: Just outlaw "Software" and "Method" patents

Except for that pesky bit about laws being created by the Legislative branch (the House and the Senate), not by the Executive branch (the President), but hey, we shouldn't have to let a little thing like the Constitution stop us, right?

Actually the President is allowed to enact laws on his own by the Constitution. They're called 'executive orders' and they rarely, if ever, outlast the President who enacted them.

Blaming the President for bad laws is like blaming your dog because it's raining. Blame the CongressCritters, and better still, if you are an American, write them and vote against them if they don't do what you want.

The President is part of the problem by exercising or not exercising his veto power, but yes. My Congressmen are probably tired of hearing from me and I've only voted for 1 of the three in the last 2 election cycles.

And no, voting third party is NOT "throwing your vote away" - look at how much more attention the Democrats paid to the Green party after Gore lost - when the Greens made it VERY plain that by Gore not playing ball with their desires, he lost the votes that could have made all the difference. And that is also why the Occupy movement failed: the Democrats said "We can screw you up the ass, make you blow us, and you will still vote for us, so why should we care?", the Republicans said "We could let you screw US up the ass, blow you, and you still won't vote for us, so why do we care?" and the third parties said "Hey, we are willing to talk - guys? Hello? Over here!" and were ignored.

I've been saying this for over a decade now. I've voted 3rd party in the last two Presidential elections and probably will in the next one to (unless the unthinkable happens and one of the two major parties actually nominates someone worth voting FOR....right now I get the feeling that a lot of Americans go to the polls to vote against someone, which is, I believe, a big part of our problem.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just outlaw "Software" and "Method" patents

An executive order has to have a law backing it - the order is to carry out the law. The order also has to be directed at members of the Executive branch. So the President can enact an Executive Order directing the Secret Service to take actions about preventing murder, for example, because there are laws about murder, and the EO would be carrying that out.

The President cannot enact an Executive Order requiring all Americans to eat 5 Cheetos per day, because there is no law about Cheetos consumption, and he cannot direct the American people to do anything as they are not members of the Executive branch. Nor could the President enact an Executive Order directing the Secret Service to make all Americans eat 5 Cheetos a day, because there is no law requiring that.

So the President could, just maybe, issue an order to the patent office to stop granting software patents, except for the fact that the law clearly requires the patent office to do so, and an Executive Order cannot contravene a law. And even if the President did indeed issue such an order, it would not stop any patent holder from bringing suit in court for alleged infringement.

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Unhappy

Trip, trap, trip, trap........

"Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are already looking into whether patent trolling is affecting competition in the technology market, as the patent wars between big firms like Apple, Samsung and Googorola embroil more and more combatants."

It isn't the "big firms" who suffer at the hands of the trolls. Sure the trolls will have a go if they think one of their patents has been infringed by Apple, etc, but the real victims are the small players who cannot afford to defend themselves against these scumbags.

You spend time, effort and money developing an innovative product and getting it to market, then along comes Mr Troll and takes you to the cleaners. Yes, you can do due diligence and do a patent search, but often the Troll's claim is only tenuously linked to your product and they rely on being able to out-afford the legal costs.

The obvious solution, IMHO, is to introduce a rule for transferred patents. If you are the recipient of a patent (i.e, not the original owner), then you must be able to prove you are implementing that patent in order to defend it and the onus should be on the patent holder to demonstrate this, with the burden of proof increasing with time (if you have had the patent for a year, you'd expect to see concrete designs and, maybe, prototypes. If you've had it for 10 years then anything other than "in full production" would invalidate it).

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Re: Trip, trap, trip, trap........

The problem with that is that a small company of individual would have no way to use their patents - no matter how innovative or useful, what worth is it if enforcing takes five million dollars in legal fees and a ten year court battle? Any larger company could win by attrition. Right now an inventor at least has the option of selling up to one of the 'trolls' who can foot the bill.

The real problem is just how easy these patents are to get - most of the ones that generate real outrage aren't really innovative or complicated at all, but insultingly simple. The 'rounded corners' patent. Slide-to-unlock. To fix the system, fix the approvals process.

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Re: Trip, trap, trip, trap........

This is two parts. A patent gives you the right to sue if someone is infringing on your IP. It does not and never has provide you with the means with which to sue. That's not what patents do.

The second part is that the scenario you are describing is a big part of why you shouldn't be able to patent software & methods. As originally designed the patent system requires your invention to not only be innovative but also tangible. For many years you actually had to send in real examples or scale models of your inventions in order to get a patent. As usual, people have gamed the system and fucked up what was originally a good idea by allowing software and methods to be patentable.

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Anonymous Coward

What is he doing????

WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE PATENT TROLLS!?!?

...Ok, on the other hand... :)

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Trollface

Re: What is he doing????

I *am* thinking of them. Which is why I'm laughing at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

I am thinking of the patent trolls

I am thinking of the patent trolls - very hard. Unfortunately, as of yet their heads have not exploded like watermelons at a Gallagher concert.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What is he doing????

Sure I'll think of the patent trolls. I think they'd make great speed bumps.

Hey, maybe we can put them to work in high risk jobs with cheap safety gear. Have them dangling from broadcast towers with D-clips from a book store holding their safety harnesses on.

Maybe we can get them to volunteer as test subjects for some of DARPA's experimental weapons.

...We can't actually do any of these, can we. Darn.

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Pirate

It occurs to me...

...that a quick and easy cure to a lot of this could be effected by implementing a "broad/narrow" filter for patent applications.

Get someone with a reasonable level of intelligence to look at each patent, and give a quick opinion as to which of the two categories it falls into. Narrow patents get fast-tracked, broad ones get taken apart by as many industry experts and standards bodies as can be thrown at the problem.

The end result being that broad patents would be stalled in the system potentially for decades, and probably not granted even after that. That should encourage companies to narrow the focus of their patents considerably.

GJC

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Thumb Up

Re: It occurs to me...

you could even crowdsource it ....

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Re: It occurs to me...

Crowdsourcing is good, but make sure you work in the words "the cloud" in there somewhere. Something along the lines of

Making use of a virtual storage location to facilitate crowdsourcing via a web3.0 interface in order to validate new patents which will be accessible via a repository in the cloud.

With that many buzzwords, people will throw money at you for your idea, even if it makes no sense at all.

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Happy

Re: It occurs to me...

Hmmm, it sounds like you've just described a business process. Those are patentable, aren't they?

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Happy

Re: @AdamT

Damn. Could have been my shot at fame, there. Oh, well, one for the public domain :-)

GJC

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Happy

Re: It occurs to me...

wowfood,

Surely we must be up to Web 4.0 by now?

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Trollface

Re: It occurs to me...

Surely some troll somewhere holds a patent for a business process based on buzzwords.

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In other news...

Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are already looking into whether bears shit in the woods.

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Happy

Re: In other news...

I think you'll find that the patent entitled "Methods for Convenient Arboreal Ursine Defecation Utilising Purloined Pic-a-nic Baskets in a Sylvan Setting" is already held by a Mr Y. Bear of Jellystone.

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Trollface

"Timely Defense" is needed...

... to stop trolls sitting on the patent waiting for a big payday.

If they don't jump the first time there is infringement, the patent becomes public domain.

<-- Trollface for obvious reasons.

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Re: "Timely Defense" is needed...

And they should make patient-FUD illegal. This business of "I think Linux/VP8/whatever might be infringing upon our patients". If they haven't sued the alleged infringer within a month, they've failed the "timely defence" test and thereby lose the right to sue that defendent... ever.

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FAIL

Re: "Timely Defense" is needed...

Meh, I've always thought "we think you're infringing on our patents" w/o a court summons right behind it doesn't mean much. If they *really* think you're infringing, they wouldn't be pissing about in the dark, they'd be suing you.

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Facepalm

Re: "Timely Defense" is needed...

I think that's kind of what silent_count is trying to say - if you don't back up your publicly made claim, then you *should* lose the right to assert it in a court later on. However, I would suggest that here in the UK we already have a small defence against publicy claiming IP fraud falsely ("patent FUD") and it's called libel.

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Re: "Timely Defense" is needed...

But that's not how patents work. They are private property and you may use them how you please. If you come to an agreement with another party then so be it. Court is the last step in a convoluted process of enforcing a patent.

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Devil

How about "Timely Usage" AND Defense....

Perhaps if the contested patent had to actually be in usable form with some form of provable functionality (no concept only patents) and the resulting lawsuit is filed within say 90 days of discovering the infringement then you could be somewhat certain there was a reason for the suit.

Software patent arguements would have to be on a word for word basis, not vague functionality.

On the front end, if a simple Google search brings up millions of similarities for design of devices (rounded corners anyone?) then no patent could ever be granted in the first place.

Oh, and a final caveat; no US patent suits can be initiated in anything other than Federal Court in California, New York , or Washington DC. You are out of luck Tex-ass.

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Boffin

Nice!

It seems Obama isn't just going for plain vanilla patent trolls ... he's going against the other flavor of patent trolls, or patent bullies. That is, stop companies like Apple blocking imports because someone else's phones have round corners...

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