President Obama is planning to take executive action against patent trolls, announcing a series of legal moves tomorrow to rein in some of the patent system’s current abuses, reports The Wall Street Journal. The president will reportedly instruct the Patent and Trademark Office to start work on a rule-making process that would require the disclosure of a patent's owner in addition to its inventor. The move is reportedly designed to give people more information in the case that they’re charged with patent infringement, like whether the company that’s suing them owns other related patents. Citing unnamed officials, The WSJ writes that the president will announce five executive actions and seven proposed legislative changes, including one that would allow litigants to be sanctioned for filing abusive lawsuits.
Lessening the role of the ITC in settling patent disputes
One such change is reportedly aimed at lessening the role of the International Trade Commission (ITC) in settling patent disputes. Tech companies like Apple, Motorola, and others have increasingly turned to the regulatory body to seek import bans on competitors' products that they believe infringe their patents, and Obama is reportedly aiming to cut down on the frequency that it's used.
The term “patent troll” describes a company that acquires patents, not to build products, but simply rack up licensing fees through the threat of litigation, a practice (recently detailed on This American Life) that has drawn the ire of many, including the president. Reforming the patent system has been a major area of interest for Obama, whose 2011's America Invents Act went into effect in March, bringing sweeping changes to the system such as the ability to oppose new patents before they're granted.
Update: The New York Times confirmed on Tuesday that President Obama did issue the five executive orders for new regulations on patent disclosures.