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Obama says patent trolls 'extort money', pledges reform

Presidential hangout touches on open internet, teaching kids to code

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US President Barack Obama has used a “Fireside Hangout”, captured on YouTube, to label patent trolls as leeches who extort money from their victims.

Asked about the potential for patent trolls to hamper innovation, Obama said his administration's attempts at patent reform “only went about half way to where we need to go” and have not “captured all the problems”.

Among those problems are patent trolls, who “do not produce anything themselves” and are “trying to leverage and hijack someone else's idea and see if they can extort some money out of them.”

Changing laws to address this won't be simple, he said, as new legislation will need to balance the need for IP protection that encourages innovation. The President therefore said “we need to pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build additional consensus on smarter patent laws.”

Obama also said he hopes to “ensure the internet stays open” so that entrepreneurs can enjoy low barriers to entry.

Elsewhere in the 47-minute chat, Obama revealed he has spoken with Mark Zuckerberg about the role of computers in schools and emerged agreeing with the Facebook CEO that it makes sense for kids to learn programming.

“I want to make sure they know how to actually produce stuff using computers, and not just consume stuff,” Obama said. ®

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