A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee, seeking to reduce legal claims by owners of illegitimate patents, heard Thursday that it\u2019s difficult to define just what a bogus patent claim is.The goal of Thursday\u2019s hearing, said subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith, was to define so-called patent trolls, which some patent-reform advocates say are those who own patents solely for the purpose of collecting license fees or suing alleged infringers."The patent system should reward creativity, not legal gamesmanship," said Smith, a Texas Republican and sponsor of patent overhaul legislation called the Patent Reform Act. Smith\u2019s wide-ranging bill would limit damages in some patent cases, allow a new patent challenge mechanism and allow third parties to submit evidence that a patent application contains someone else\u2019s invention.But four witnesses, including Segway scooter inventor Dean Kamen, told the House Judiciary Committee\u2019s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property that defining a patent troll\u00a0becomes complicated in the details. Some people have defined patent trolls as patent holders who don\u2019t develop their inventions, and Kamen\u2019s firm pitches its patents to a larger company to develop the products, he said."I only recently found out, after reading the definition of a troll, that I am one," said Kamen, whose DEKA Research and Development has invented several medical products. "It\u2019s maybe a little bit unfair and dangerous to characterize people who license products as trolls."Kamen questioned the committee\u2019s efforts to limit the patent infringement lawsuits. He and other inventors have said lawsuits are one of the few protections small inventors have against large companies stealing their patents.The U.S. Supreme Court in May ruled that judges should not automatically enforce injunctions against companies found to infringe patents, but if patent holders don\u2019t have exclusive rights to determine what happens to their patents, then the value of patents is limited, Kamen said."When I walk into that large company, they\u2019ve got marketing, they\u2019ve got distribution," he said. "If I show them what I\u2019ve got, the only thing I have on my side of the table is that patent. The only way to get them to commit huge resources to turn that into the product, is to say to them, \u2018You exclusively have the right to do this.\u2019 "Other witnesses agreed that labeling some people as patent trolls would be less effective than defining actions that Congress should prohibit. Congress should focus on identifying bad behavior, "whoever engages in it," said Ed Reines, a patent lawyer with Weil, Gotshal & Manges. But representatives of Amazon.com and Time Warner called on Congress to rebalance patent rights between patent holders and patent users. Congress should limit the number of court venues in which patent infringement lawsuits can be filed, and it should limit the damages in cases where the patent holders aren\u2019t practicing the patent, said Chuck Fish, Time Warner\u2019s vice president and chief patent counsel. It\u2019s too easy for some patent holders to get damages for lost profits, even when they don\u2019t compete with the company they\u2019ve sued for patent infringement, added Paul Misener, Amazon.com\u2019s vice president for public policy.The overriding problem is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issuing bad patents, Fish said. He praised the subcommittee for looking at ways to improve the patent-issuing process. Current patent law is also "not balanced," Fish said. "There is a harmful trend that exists toward speculation and litigation based on patents, and away from product innovation that is supported by strong intellectual property rights."-Grant Gross, IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.