In a welcome turn of events, President Barack Obama spoke directly to the patent troll problem and the need for more comprehensive patent reform yesterday in a "Fireside Hangout" — a live question and answer session hosted in a Google+ hangout. The President was responding to a question by the prominent electrical engineer and entrepreneur Limor "Ladyada" Fried, who in 2009 won an EFF Pioneer Award for her work with free software and open-source hardware.
Obama acknowledged that the much-touted patent reforms that came in his first term "only went about halfway to where we need to go." Specifically, he describes patent trolls as "a classic example," of the problem, and that "they don't actually produce anything themselves." Obama's statement yesterday is another encouraging reminder that these issues are becoming more and more mainstream, and that meaningful reform is not just an idealistic dream of a small niche group, but rather a necessary step to address a large and growing problem.
We think software patents are a mess that have borne a dangerous troll problem. To that end, we've proposed some reforms at Defend Innovation. The seven proposals we list there are open for public comment and sign-on, and already more than 10,000 people have joined us.
Here's the video from the Fireside Hangout where Obama speaks about patents:
This Google+ Fireside Hangout is the latest in a series of endeavors by the administration into the Internet community, including an "AMA" question-and-answer session on Reddit last August. The administration still has a long way to go in delivering on its promises of transparency, but including the Internet community — and allowing that community to raise important issues like patent trolls — is a refreshing step forward for the conversation in Washington.