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White House proposals to fight patent trolls called laughably inadequate

June 5th, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Anti-Patent Troll Legislation Criticism

Much like spammers, Satanists and mimes, patent trolls are one of the rare groups around that Americans of all political stripes can unite in opposing. But although the White House on Tuesday announced some executive orders and proposed some legislative fixes to help end the flurry of lawsuits filed by patent holding firms, Quartz’s Christopher Mims thinks that such proposals are laughably inadequate and don’t go nearly far enough in addressing the real problems with the United States patent system.

According to Mims, “the core problems with the U.S. patent system” are “that it’s under-funded, under-staffed, and has a backlog of at least 700,000 unexamined patents.” Given how much pressure the government has been under to cut the deficit, the Obama administration’s proposals don’t devote nearly enough resources to the place they’re most needed: At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which has the power to kill bad patents before they can ever be used in a lawsuit.

“The USPTO has a huge backlog of unexamined patents, and it can’t hire enough examiners because Congress has to approve (and can mis-appropriate) its budget — even though the USPTO is funded by application fees and not by taxpayer dollars,” Mims writes.

Mims also thinks that the administration’s proposals will do little to reduce the number of vague and obvious patents now in patent trolls’ portfolios and that they do nothing to stem the tide of software patents, which Mims thinks are “probably a bad idea” all together. Taken as a whole, then, we probably shouldn’t expect to see a slowdown in patent troll suits anytime soon even though the vast majority of people in the tech world desperately want to see them go away.

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