Yesterday marked the second time that President Barack Obama held a public Google Plus Hangout, dubbed “The Fireside Hangout”, where the general public was allowed to submit their questions in hopes of being one of the lucky Americans selected to actually speak to the leader of the free world. The questions covered topics including illegal immigration, gun control, and a topic that should be important to our readers, patent reform.
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In a question posed by Limor Fried, CEO of Adafruit, an electronics manufacturing and education company out of New York City, the president was asked specifically about patent trolls. Fried said: “what I hear is that they’re afraid that if they become successful, they’re going to be targeted by patent trolls.” She then asked what the president would do “to limit the abuse of software patents?”
In his answer Mr. Obama first pointed to the Leahy-Smith America Invents act which he signed into law in 2011. This act changed the patent system in the US from a first to invent system to a first to file one. The President went on to say:
“The folks that you’re talking about are a classic example. They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea and see if they can extort some money out of them. Sometimes these things are challenging. Because we also want to make sure that patents are long enough, and that people’s intellectual property is protected. We’ve got to balance that with making sure that they’re not so long that innovation is reduced.”
He then acknowledged that the existing laws didn’t go far enough by adding:
“But I do think that our efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go. What we need to do is pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws. Whether it’s how we’re dealing with copyrights, how we’re dealing with patents — what we’ve tried to do is be an honest broker between the various stakeholders.”
I think we’re all at the point where we shudder every time we hear the word patent these days, so any “reforms” on that front will surely be welcomed by this community. It’s also nice to see elected officials taking their time to answer questions from regular people no matter what side of the aisle you fall on. Let’s hope this is a trend and not an aberration.