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PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS

White House Takes Action on Patent Trolls
 

A White House release today lays out plans to fight patent trolls and reform the patent process.

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The Obama Administration made it clear today that this is the year it plans to get tough on patent trolls and patent reform.

In a fact sheet released Thursday, the White House laid out a series of actions that are either underway or have been completed in the past year that will help small business owners, innovators, and startups  deal effectively with a variety of intellectual property issues.

The move comes at a time when both Congress and the Supreme Court are considering legislation and appeals that could reshape the patent system and patent litigation.

"The Administration today is announcing major progress on a series of initiatives designed to combat patent trolls and further strengthen our patent system and foster innovation," The White House said in the release.

Here's the bottom line for you:

Patent trolls, beware:

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has proposed new rules for patent holders, or companies with ownership interests in patents, requiring them to provide the public with more complete information about themselves and the competitive landscape for their inventions. Such information should help facilitate technology transfer by making patent holder information more available. It should also reduce abusive patent litigation by helping the public defend itself against unwarranted accusations, the White House said. The efforts are aimed at so-called patent trolls, who often buy up expired or soon-to-expire patents and hide behind shell companies whose only business is filing lawsuits against businesses they claim use their patents.

Patent clarity:

The USPTO has improved upon aspects of the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011, which was initially passed to speed up and clarify the patent granting process. The White House says the USPTO has now developed a multi-phased training program for examiners and judges which is expected to improve consistency and clarity of the examination record. In the next few weeks, USPTO is also launching a pilot program that encourages use of clear language within patent claims by using glossaries for patent specification.

We love you, mom and pop:

Starting today, the USPTO is launching a tool kit that should help consumers and main street businesses understand their rights before launching into litigation or settlements with trolls. The tool kit includes links to websites and services that can help them understand the risks and benefits of litigation or settlement, as well as determine best courses of action.

"Unsuspecting retailers, consumers, small businesses, and other users of products containing patented technology have increasingly found themselves targeted by letters alleging patent infringement and demanding money--even in instances where a small business is using an off-the-shelf product," the White House said in its fact sheet.

Crowdsourcing, tech training, and free help:

The USPTO is expanding ways for companies, experts, and the public to collaborate--or crowdsource--with patent examiners, holders and applicants to determine whether an invention is in fact new. It’s also providing patent examiners with more advanced technology training to help them keep up with the torrid pace of changes in the technology world. Finally, the USPTO is dedicating various resources to inventors without legal representation, and expanding the AIA pro-bono program into all 50 states. 

Last updated: Feb 20, 2014

JEREMY QUITTNER is a staff writer for Inc. magazine and Inc.com. He previously covered technology for American Banker and entrepreneurship for BusinessWeek.
@JeremyQuittner




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