For months, we’ve written about our opposition of patent trolls and their attempts to extort hundreds of thousands—or even millions—of dollars from companies that actually create value. These patent-powered parasites kill innovation, drain the economy and strip away capital from businesses both large and small.
This week we’re one step closer to seeing true change enacted: on Tuesday the White House laid out a slate of proposals, including five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations, “to protect innovators from frivolous litigation” by patent trolls.
While patent trolling isn’t illegal, we believe that it is an unethical and shameful business. As President Obama said in February, patent trolls “don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea to see if they can extort some money out of them.”
Most of President Obama’s recommendations target abusive patent litigation, supporting penalties for litigants who file abusive lawsuits; boosting transparency in the patent system to help curb frivolous suits; and protecting consumers and businesses who buy technology products from being sued by trolls. These are needed and necessary reforms, and will help – but we will also need further legislation requiring patent trolls to be specific about their complaints and to limit the costs associated with discovery.
Abusive lawsuits aren’t the only problem, though – we are still awash in overbroad software patents. President Obama’s executive order to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is intended to tighten functional claiming to add clarity and specificity to software patent claims.
At Rackspace, we are working to make patent reform a top priority for Congress – not just for ourselves, but for all the companies and developers who are also in the line of fire (like Apple, Netflix and Target).
We’ve seen some victories in the battle against patent trolls and their brazen abuse of the patent system. With the highest levels of government now on our side, we’re optimistic that our combined efforts will help make the patent troll business model a thing of the past.