Rep. Lamar Smith has been working hard to change laws in all three branches of intellectual property -- and all of his proposals seem to make those IP laws even worse than they already are. For copyrights, he wants to expand the DMCA. For trademarks, he wants to get rid of many exceptions for use of trademarks. For patent reform, while coming up with a few good proposals, most of them are likely to make the system much worse. On that front, Smith held hearings today to see if Congress could come up with a working definition of a patent troll. While it's good to see Congress recognizing that patent hoarding can hold back innovation, defining just what a patent troll is doesn't seem like it's going to help. The issue isn't whether or not anyone is a patent troll, but whether the patent system is being used to hold back innovation. Trying to define what a patent troll is will simply confuse the issue, and lead companies to focus on avoiding the specific definitions of a patent troll, while trying to accuse every one they get into a patent lawsuit with of meeting the regulatory definition of patent troll. A much more important issue would be to focus on making sure the patent system is actually encouraging innovation.
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