Obama urges patent reform

President Obama on Thursday said that patent “trolls” are one of the “biggest problems” the administration is targeting.

Though legislative efforts to stop the trolls, which file broad and aggressive lawsuits to extract settlements from companies they claim are infringing their patents, has effectively stalled in Congress, Obama indicated that the White House is still interested in moving forward. 

“One of the biggest problems that we’ve been working on is how do we deal with these folks who basically are filing phony patents and are costing some of our best innovators tons of money in court,” Obama said during a town hall in Los Angeles on Thursday evening. “Or, if they don't go to court, they end up having to pay them off, even though they're making a bogus claim just because it’s not worth it for you to incur all the litigation costs.”

“We’ve made some progress on patent reform,” he added. “We continue to work with Congress to do more.”

The House passed a bill to blunt the so-called trolls in December.

The Senate had spent months working on the issue, but progress was killed in May, a development that many people blamed on Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidHeck's rejection of Trump imperils Nevada Senate race Pelosi blasts GOP leaders for silence on Trump Latinos build a wall between Trump and White House in new ad MORE (D-Nev.).

In the Thursday town hall, Obama also said that he was “unequivocally committed” to net neutrality — the concept that Internet service providers should not be able to block or slow people’s Web speeds depending on which websites they visit — and opposed the idea of “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” online.

Tech companies greeted Obama’s words warmly.

“Patent trolls abuse the legal system as a weapon against innovation,” said Michael Beckerman, head of the Internet Association, a trade group that includes major companies like Google, Netflix and Twitter.

“President Obama made clear tonight that a functioning Internet industry is essential for continued innovation and economic growth in the U.S.”