White House Makes Good On Patent Reform Promises, More Changes To Come

Adi Kamdar | Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) | February 20, 2014

The White House updated the nation on its commitment to curtail the patent troll problem and tie up some egregious loose ends in our patent system, announcing progress made on all fronts—as well as three new executive actions. While the Innovation Act (and other patent bills) is pending in the Senate, it is encouraging to see the White House and Patent Office taking steps on their own to address these rampant problems.

One of the most useful announcements is a toolkit put out by the Patent Office called Been Sued or Gotten a Demand Letter? that highlights a variety of best practices and resources for businesses and individuals who are facing a troll threat. (In fact, one of the resources the PTO suggests is our Trolling Effects project.) One of the biggest questions we get from companies who have received a demand letter is, "What do we do now?" It's important that the Patent Office provides such resources to empower businesses and curb abusive litigation practices.

The Patent Office is also addressing one of the biggest problems behind broad, vague patents (especially software patents): functional claiming. This is the practice of patenting what something does, rather than what it is. In order to help limit this practice, the PTO put together a training program for patent examiners and judges, so they can understand these sorts of claims better. We think this program is a promising first step, but the PTO needs to do more to limit the use of broad functional language in patent claims. [...]