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    The White House weighs in on software patents, doesn't say much

    The White House weighs in on software patents, doesn't say much


    The White House's message on software patents does not appear to match up with reality.

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    It looks like even the White House has software patents on its collective mind, at least in a rhetorical sense. You may recall that a petition to "Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents" was created back in September through the new "We the People" online petition tool. As is apparent from the title of the petition, the goal was to convince someone in government to do away with software patents entirely. Nearly 15,000 people signed the petition, and the White House has now responded. 

    Compared to the demands of the petitioners, however, the government's response is considerably less controversial. In fact, the message appears to be that everything is pretty much under control. First, the Obama Administration believes the America Invents Act (the recently enacted patent reform law) will improve patent quality across the board, including software patents. This is an odd connection, considering the new law didn't really address software patents at all. Second, the White House declares its support for certain open source projects — even heralding the Department of Health and Human Services as "a leader in standards-based, open sourced policy to power innovations." This second point seems to be an afterthought with little relevance, but we'll just have to take it for what it's worth.

    So, what does this mean? It's difficult to say. There isn't a lot of substance to examine in this statement. In a nutshell, the administration is a big believer in the new patent legislation the President just signed (to be expected), and it seems to have an affinity for "open source energy." On the issue of what can, or should, be done to address people's concerns over software patents in the US, the White House isn't saying much.