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White House publishes executive orders to rein in patent trolls

updated 04:34 pm EDT, Tue June 4, 2013

Legislative proposals added; order could arrive as soon as June 5

President Obama has signed a host of executive actions intended to tighten down on the rash of lawsuits from non-practicing entities, colloquially known as "patent trolls." The President's orders aim at firms that collect patents without using them in products, and use them as weapons to force primarily technology companies into expensive and time-consuming litigation.

Plans noted by a report in the Wall Street Journal include directing the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to implement new rules requiring a patent holder instigating a lawsuit to disclose the true owner of a patent, exposing shell companies for larger corporations.

In a set of legislative proposals, Congress has been asked to enact laws that will apply legal and financial sanctions on litigants who file lawsuits seen as abusive or frivolous, likely referring to standards essential patents that are required to be licensed on a fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) basis.

Potentially most notably, the President is looking to revise some aspects of the US International Trade Commission (ITC). The administration is allegedly seeking to have the ITC revise legal standards for hiring its judges, and review existing procedures at the agency. The ITC currently has jurisdiction over imports of products made overseas, and can bar the import of products that are deemed to infringe on patents.

The report in the Wall Street Journal claims that the ITC process generally moves more quickly than a patent infringement court case might, but in any case, the process generally takes years to reach a conclusion. Given the rapid rate of technology advancement, many products are no longer commercially relevant after courts or the ITC have ordered embargoes. It is unknown if the pending executive order will address the pace that these hearings often take.

by MacNN Staff



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