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The WSJ reports that after years of worsening patent legislation in the US, the Obama administration has finally decided to try to do something about it.

The president has taken a dim view of certain patent-holding firms. In February, he said some firms “don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea to see if they can extort some money out of them.”

Apple, depending on who you ask, is sometimes the agressor in patent cases but is often the victim of  frivolous lawsuits that often earn these patent holding companies millions and millions of dollars. These companies aren’t really companies at all; instead they are just shell companies built around a patent or a portfolio of patents, which are often overly broad or were never intended to be used in a particular way.

These lawsuits often take place in courts in Eastern Texas, where judges are notoriously friendly to trolling interests.

Some examples of companies who’ve questionably sued Apple or its interests: VirnetXPersonal Audio LLC, Lodsys, Motorola? etc.

The administration’s plans in 5 steps:

1. Direct the Patent and Trademark Office to start a rule-making process aimed at requiring patent holders to disclose the owner of a patent.

2. The president will ask Congress to pass legislation that would allow sanctions on litigants who file lawsuits deemed abusive by courts.

3. Obama will direct the patent office to train examiners to scrutinize applications for overly broad patent claims.

4. Rein in the growing use of the International Trade Commission to settle patent disputes.

5. The Obama administration would like Congress to change certain ITC legal standards and ensure that the agency has flexibility in hiring its judges.

Obama signed a law in 2011 meant to overhaul the patent system but clearly more is needed.