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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JOHN E. SUNUNU

Who is a patent troll?

Obama calls nation’s techies to arms, but enemy is difficult to define

Last week, the Obama administration called the nerds of America to arms. The target: “patent trolls” — companies that buy up patents and then seek money from companies that infringe upon them. Trolls are blamed for everything from stifling innovation to skyrocketing legal costs, and the White House offered a laundry list of solutions, ranging from tougher scrutiny of new patents to more effective bans on patent-infringing products. Across the tech community, the plan was met with polite applause.

Scratch the surface, however, and many admit that it probably won’t make any difference. Innovation is complicated, and simplistically labeling companies as trolls is more likely to make things worse.

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