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Obama Takes Aim at 'Patent Trolls'

February 15, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225842

If you are worried that your innovation might become the target of an aggressive, money-hungry patent lawyer, know that your Commander in Chief wants to do more to protect you.

"Patent trolls" has become a popular term among the tech crowd to refer to people or companies who opportunistically enforce patents for products they often have no intention of making. President Barack Obama said that these patent trolls are trying to extort money from entrepreneurs. The remarks came in a Google Plus Fireside Hangout session where he sat down virtually with a handful of Americans and took questions on a range of issues on what he did, and did not, talk about in his State of the Union address.

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"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," Obama said of patent trolls in Thursday's virtual chat. That the President would address patent trolls surprised and delighted the community of tech entrepreneurs for whom this is a pervasive issue.

 
 

Obama also went so far as to say that the patent reform law passed in 2011 "only went about halfway to where we need to go," and he said that he wanted to get input from people deeply involved in the issue to potentially draft some "smarter patent laws."

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Obama addressed the thorny issue at the behest of tech-entrepreneur Limor Fried, an engineer and the CEO of New York City-based Adafruit, an online marketplace for everyday tools, electronics and equipment that the community is encouraged to modify or "hack." Fried, who was also Entrepreneur Magazine's 2012 Entreprenuer of the Year, asked the President what he planned to do to limit the abuse of software patents. While Obama's comments about patent trolls were encouraging for the high-tech community, he also talked about just how hard these issues of Internet freedom and copyright protection are to resolve.

Also of note to the tech entrepreneurs, Obama said that he thinks it makes sense to have computer programing a high-school requirement, much like foreign language is now.

The Google Plus Fireside Hangout cover a slew of other issues, including gun control, his proposal to hike the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, killing the U.S. penny, and comprehensive immigration reform. He also answered some more personal questions, like what reading inspires his political philosophies and how growing up in Hawaii influenced his childhood and his perspective as an adult. You can watch the Google full Hangout above.

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What issues would you like to see in additional patent reform? Leave a note below and let us know.