back to article Obama says patent trolls 'extort money', pledges reform

US President Barack Obama has used a “Fireside Hangout”, captured on YouTube, to label patent trolls as leeches who extort money from their victims. Asked about the potential for patent trolls to hamper innovation, Obama said his administration's attempts at patent reform “only went about half way to where we need to go” and …


This topic is closed for new posts.


  1. Turtle


    "Obama revealed he has spoken with Mark Zuckerberg [...] agreeing with the Facebook CEO that it makes sense for to learn programming."

    Makes more sense for to learn grammar, though.

    1. edge_e

      Re: Grammar

      Learning to program is probably good for grammar in general.

      If nothing else, you learn that it's near impossible to write to write a few hundred lines without making a mistake therefore making it much more likely that you'll actually read back through what you've written.

    2. Ronald J Riley

      Re: Grammar

      Writing a program that will actually work requires strict conformance with the programming language's grammar, actually called syntax.

      It is quite clear that Obama has no engineering expertise and likely cannot write much of a program.

      I started programming in Algol in 7th or 8th grade on a GE timeshare system. I became an engineer and was an early adopter of microprocessors for embedded real time systems. At that time there were no programmers which specialized in micros and those who designed the hardware generally had to write their own code.

      This gave us a unique perspective which the vast majority of programmers today are completely ignorant about, namely that hardware and software solutions are often interchangeable.

      The truth is that the vast majority of programmers do not produce anything which could be called an invention. But their egos drive them to assert that when they code another's invention in a marginally different way that they are inventors. They are not.

      Socializing software inventions will only serve to transfer even more work out of America.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Grammar

        I do have a software patent .

        As we could not get it in Spain, we got it in the US (my company is BIG).

        It is an invention, but I am still against it: most SW inventions aren't "BIG" enough to justify, and many of them have been done before, but were not registered...

        1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

          Re: Grammar

          Like all politicians, he's using a context content-free grammar

        2. Ronald J Riley

          Re: Grammar

          It is very hard to predict ahead of time which inventions are going to have great value and which will be commercial flops. That determination is made by the market. One thing is sure, people do not fight over inventions which do not represent significant profit centers.

          Big companies like to talk about inventions being silly while the ones they are being sued over actually are commercially valuable.

          1. Vic

            Re: Grammar

            > One thing is sure, people do not fight over inventions which do not represent significant profit centers.

            Trolls do.

            The point of the US system is that it is frequently cripplingly expensive to *win* a lawsuit. Thus the trolls can take a hefty profit from suing someone over an entirely worthless and meritless patent.

            And this needs to stop.


      2. frank ly

        @Ronald J RileyRe: Grammar

        "Socializing software inventions will ..."

        What does that mean? e.g. 'Yesterday morning, I socialised four software inventions. Now they can talk and make friends with people.' Is that the sort of thing you mean?

        1. Ronald J Riley

          Re: @Ronald J RileyGrammar

          It means that large transnational companies are socialists when they need inventions and capitalists when they are selling their product or service.

    3. Eddy Ito

      Re: Grammar

      I don't understand, what about Grampy? I learned at least as much from him as Grammy.

    4. JaitcH
      Thumb Up

      Re: Grammar

      Americans don't speak English, they speak American and drop the 'T's and truncate the ends of words.

      Obama seemed to be a fine example of US 'English'.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Obama is one of those clever sound bite Politicians.

      He talks the talk but he don't walk the walk...

    6. This post has been deleted by its author

    7. joejack

      Re: Grammar

      Especially if the Zuck promotes PHP as the preferred learning language. Tantamount to child abuse.

  2. Zoopy


    Obama is much better at making promises than keeping them.

    1. unwarranted triumphalism

      Re: Promises

      Perhaps he's better at believing that Republicans will act like they're actual functional adults than seeing them for what they are.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Promises

        Either way, your president shouldn't be making promised that your republican congress won't keep. He - as with any politician, regardless of stripe - should stick only to the truth. Promise only that which you, personally can ensure.

        The rest, didn't think the common man was goign to come out ahead in anything, did you?

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Promises

          Obama is the only politician who can say what he wants, he doesn't have to seek reelection so doesn't need any more coin. However, anything he wants to do has to get past over 500 career politicians all with an eye on keeping donations for future elections and over half of whom are fundamentally opposed to absolutely anything he says, mostly on the grounds that he said it and that's enough. Unfortunately it's all just words.

          1. Ronald J Riley

            Re: Promises

            "so doesn't need any more coin."

            Obama is doing the bidding of big corporate players so they will shower him with more coin as soon as he is out of office. People need to remember that Obama came out of Chicago politics and they are produce some of the most corrupt politicians in America.

        2. Don Jefe

          Re: Promises

          You understand that if the President only agreed to do what the "other side" says there would be no point in having the Executive Branch at all.

      2. Tom 35

        Re: Promises

        The Republicans will pull one of their usual tricks like attach an anti-abortion bill.

      3. 404

        Re: Promises


        Obama's first two years with Democrat House & Senate control barely got Obamacare passed and that was up-voted last minute & at midnight without reading the damn thing. Going on five years now without a Constitutionally mandated budget.

        Point is Obama had all the marbles and lost them his first term - time wasted.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Promises

          As I recall, the Republicans blocked almost everything the majority wanted. The Democrats needed a 60% majority to pass anything, and they didn't have it. So yes, the Democrats had a majority in Congress, but not a controlling majority.

          As usual the right wing rewrites history to suit themselves.

          1. asdf

            Re: Promises

            >The Democrats needed a 60% majority to pass anything, and they didn't have it

            They did have it for a few months I believe. Remember that jagoff (haha lost to a mediocre comedian too funny) Republican in Minnesota held up the results of the Senate race as long as possible in the courts and then that idiot self entitled Democrat candidate (who refused to shake hands in the cold) lost to Scott Brown in Massachusetts not long after that.

        2. asdf

          Re: Promises

          >Going on five years now without a Constitutionally mandated budget.

          Funny how that happens when you give any single member the power to prevent anything from coming up for an up or down vote by basically requiring 60 votes for anything to have a chance to pass.

    2. Wade Burchette

      Re: Promises

      "Obama is much better at making promises than keeping them."

      And this is different than every other politician how again?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is a ridiculous amount of money involved in this particular area. I wont hold my breath.

    1. Thorne

      And considered all the unemployed judges and lawyers if the trolls couldn't sue people, I can't see it getting passed

      1. Ronald J Riley

        Have you considered that the only reason there are patent enforcement entities is that big companies routinely steal inventions from smaller entities and count on the high cost of litigation to prevent their victims from having justice. And when they miscalculate and are sued they whine about trolls. A troll is simply someone who has patent property rights who has the gall to enforce those rights.

        1. t.est

          there is a definition for it

          A patent troll is a NPE.

        2. Thorne

          "A troll is simply someone who has patent property rights who has the gall to enforce those rights"

          No a patent troll is someone who has patented an idea (usually something obvious) and then proceeds to threaten anybody who tries to make something to extort money from them.

          There one patent lawyer who's whole existance is working out where technology is heading and patenting the ideas before someone makes it happen. He's a lawyer. He invents nothing. He earns around millions every year because for most companies, it's cheaper to "licence" it than to fight him.

          The problem is now, that there is so many trolls all wanting a cut that there is little left for inventors.

          The problem is the patent office hands out patents like lollies and it costs a fortune to fight it. Yes you may well win the fight but if the fight will cost you a million and licencing it will cost you $100K, do you fight? If you fight, will you get your costs back? No you won't. Trolls make nothing and the patents are owned by $2 shell companies with no assets. You win and the shell company vanishes leaving you with squat.

          Problem is you end up feeding the trolls cause it's cheaper than fighting them and the real problem is now that there are so many trolls you can't afford to feed them all.

          I've been there. I fought. I won. I lost a stack of money even thought I won

          1. asdf


            Software patents exist for one reason. Billable hours. Its what happens when most of the people who make the laws also practice law or have buddies that do.

    2. P. Lee

      Given the ridiculous amount of money involved in this particular area, I'd expect the result to be worse than the current situation.

      Better the devil you know...

  4. JassMan

    A good place to start

    would be to ensure that prior art and non-obvious mean exactly what it says on the tin. Far too often corporations are allowed patents on devices etc that have been brought to public attention in scifi novels & films. i.e. the "art" is prior and everything is obvious in hindsight. In fact, many cases of trolling stem from the trolls patenting a device which already exists, but where the original inventor thought the device was too obvious.

    Patents involving computing devices should also be limited to 7years. If you can't make a profit from a monopoly in the computing world before everything moves on, you should never have been granted the patent in the first place. To offset the short life, you should be allowed a longer time (say 30 months) before commercialisation to reflect the lead time and complexity involved.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A good place to start

      Prior art can be anything, there is even a famous case of a Donald Duck cartoon from 50years ago invalidating a patent.

      The problem is that the USPTO only checks for prior art in its own patents before granting. They take the view that it's upto the court to deal with any arguements. Although the rules change next month.

      The trouble with going to court is that if you lose - you lose big. RIM (blackberry) lost in court to an obvious patent troll who claimed any push messaging to a mobile device. It cost them $$$Billions and meant that any responsible CEO had to settle with a troll or risk losing the company, and a shareholder lawsuit.

      Newegg recently refused to settle with a troll who claimed shopping carts - but they could only do this because they are owned by the CEO and he can say "screw patent trolls"

      1. Ronald J Riley

        Re: A good place to start

        SciFi is not usually prior art because it was not reduced to practice.

        And RIM spent many millions of dollars pushing the lie that the patents were invalid. They were narrowed somewhat in reexamination, but still infringed. The reason RIM lost big was that they did flat out steal the invention and they were caught committing fraud on the court.

        When someone gets caught with their sticky fingers on another's property and then they are caught trying to cover their tracks through fraud, courts tend to hammer them as was the case with RIM.

        Note, that RIM was unable to produces the kinds of inventions they needed to remain competitive and they had burned bridges with those who were producing the inventions they need to survive in the business. The results were predictable and today RIM is fighting to survive.

        1. Vic

          Re: A good place to start

          > SciFi is not usually prior art because it was not reduced to practice.

          This is untrue.


    2. attoman

      Re: A good place to start

      It would appear that this person has never applied for or been granted a patent. 7 years? I have one software application that is in its 8th year of consideration by the US Patent Office. I've another hardware application that was filed 9 years ago with no end in sight.

      It is completely and utterly impossible to have a system which grants coverage for N years after filing and which also takes longer then N to grant the patent.

      By the way a basic piece of software does not go stale in a couple decades. On the other hand some of the stuff granted starts out stale on application.

      1. Charles 9

        And in that same timeframe software would've undergone two or three product lifecycles. Your argument would make it more valid to make software not patentable at all because the bureaucracy time is longer than the product lifecycle.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About effing time.

  6. Gert Leboski

    I wish...

    Sounds too good to be true, in my opinion. It would be great if he delivers on this, but I won't hold my breath.

    Clearly what he is saying is absolutely right, but as has been said, there is so much money in that area that I can see there being no real change.

    We can wish though.

    1. Shannon Jacobs

      Like Dubya said

      It would be a whole lot easier if the president were a dictator. My own take is that Dubya went ahead and acted like he was, or maybe he just ignored Cheney's dictatorship. In contrast, President Obama comes off looking politically weak because he keeps deferring to a neo-GOP Congress that is more concerned about maximizing their political opposition uber alles. The most disgusting part to me is when Obama agrees that they have a good idea, but his support then causes them to OPPOSE their OWN idea. This is just sick.

      Then again, Obama has been something of a disappointment as a Constitutional scholar, so that saps my optimism, too. I know that he inherited a lot of the mess and that it's much harder to get the worms back into the can or the cat back into the bag, but I doubt the so-called Founding Fathers would be amused or forgiving. In the specific case of patents and copyrights, their will is clearly being abused into small pieces. Patents were supposed to ENCOURAGE new inventions and copyrights were supposed to ENCOURAGE creativity and innovation. Instead, the relevant laws have been written by the most cheaply bribed politicians to focus on maximizing profits of the businessmen who bribed them. It is NOT a coincidence that those businessmen are the LEAST ethical and greediest ones.

      In conclusion, death to Mickey Mouse!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Still a reference.

    Even if all said fails or is completely false, at least the issue has been put forth to a president. I'm not saying anything will change now, but at least now I can't be confident that the issue is being completely ignored like it has been in the past.

    There just might be 1 patent troll that is a little more concerned than they were yesterday, and that is a good thing.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forgive my cynicism

    'Among those problems are patent trolls, who “do not produce anything themselves” and are “trying to leverage and hijack someone else's idea and see if they can extort some money out of them.”'

    And that's the job of the government, and we will brook no competition in this matter!

    (forgive my cynicism, it is totally bi-partisan.)

  9. attoman

    Obama needs to listen to the little guy, he's not beholden to big money now!

    President Obama does not seem to realize how his approval of a deeply flawed patent reform act, the America Invents Act, has injured start-ups and individual inventors.

    An indiscriminate attack on all who might fit the simplistic description of "troll" used by the President in this forum would further reduce the new inventions being filed and most importantly the really new and disruptive ideas that have powered our economy since the founding of the Republic.

    No small inventors were asked or allowed to comment on the bill President Obama signed into law. This fact alone speaks more eloquently then I about the problems now plaguing our Patent System.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Patents are a wondrous thing...

    ...because no one invented anything before patents existed.

    1. Blarkon

      Re: Patents are a wondrous thing...

      Patents predate the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, and there is some evidence that a similar idea was present in ancient Greece.

      But sure - get rid of the system so really big companies like Google and Microsoft can copy novel technical ideas without paying the person that came up with that idea - or allow that person to sell the rights to that idea to anyone who finds it valuable (rather than forcing them only to be able to sell them to the big companies).

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Or we could try to fix it

        Yes, patents are necessary.

        However software patents are provably unnecessary and almost certainly damaging.

        Fairly simply:

        Mathematics is not patentable as it cannot be invented, only discovered.

        Algorithms are mathematics.

        Software is algorithms.

        Software (and the source for it) should only be protected by copyright, because it's a specific expression of ideas.

        Expression, not invention.

        On top of that, many patents are being granted that are not only extremely obvious, but are massive land grabs by making extremely wide claims - in some cases, not even merely obvious, but the only apparent way to do a particular task.

        Otherwise we might as well patent "Reality TV" - it makes just as much sense, and might result in less of it...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Or we could try to fix it

          Software patents aren't always bad:

          I invent a mechanism and implement it in cogs and gears = patent no problem

          I implement the same thing in analogue electronics = patent

          I do the same thing in a DSP or FPGA and that's software - without software patents anybody can copy it.

        2. Charles 9

          Re: Or we could try to fix it

          Not necessarily. Software patents because algorithms aren't necessarily specific enough to be covered by copyright. Consider the idea of "clean room engineering". This was the method Compaq used to bypass the copyright on the IBM BIOS because they basically came up with an alternative implementation of the BIOS without any inside input. Patents cover that angle by protecting the process in general. If the IBM BIOS had been patented, Compaq would've had no way to legally clone the BIOS, just saying.

          Having said that, the length of software patents are not in line with software product lifecycles. Current patent terms were made for when product lifecycles were measured in years (usually around a decade or so) while software tends to cycle every year or so. If software patents are to be issued, then they need to be issued for a much shorter length of time to reflect the pace of change.


This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like