In what has surely been a long time coming, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is pushing the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to drastically re-work its rules on licensing intellectual property.
"Clearer patent notice can encourage market participants to collaborate, transfer technology," the FTC wrote in an open letter the PTO, which pushed for simplification and streamlining.
"Or, in some cases, to design-around patents, thus leading to a more efficient marketplace for intellectual property and the goods and services that practice such rights."
The second statement is a call to stop patenting ridiculously simple and obvious patents, for things such as 'business methods'. Such patents add a great deal of inefficiency to the marketplace thanks to lawsuits that drag on for years or decades.
By allowing the patenting of obvious things the patent office also places more strain on its limited resources, making poor judgment calls thanks to over-worked patent examiners.
The overall aim is to boost the quality of patents which should cut down on lawsuits and allow new companies to be created free from legal trouble.
"Because patents publicly disclose the inventions that they embody, the patent system also promotes the dissemination of scientific and technical information that might not otherwise occur," the FTC said.
"Working in tandem with the patent system, market competition stimulates innovation by creating consumer demand for new or better products or processes."
The FTC also wants rules to both speed up the issuing of new patents and set clear boundaries on them. By having less vague patents the chances of lawsuits is further reduced.
Companies including Google, Apple, IBM, and Intel have all asked the government to pass laws that would cut down on lawsuits from patent trolls. Adding the FTC should help give this a push though the measures are strongly opposed by universities, who feel such changes would harm their ability to research new fields.
The move would also be fought by Big Copyright organizations like the MPAA, RIAA and Disney, who believe big corporations should be able to own and tax even the simplest of ideas.