About a third of the way into the 45-minute “Fireside Hangout,” Obama fielded a question from Limor Fried, an electrical engineer and proprietor of Adafruit Industries, a New York DIY and tool shop. (Google picked the president’s five interlocutors, based largely on their online popularity, and flagged for the White House ahead of time which topics would likely come up.) “When I go around and talk to other entrepreneurs,” Fried explained to Obama, “what I hear is they’re worried that if they become successful they’re going to be targeted by software patent trolls.” Sure, the president and Congress have passed some legislation on patents, she granted. But what about that?
What had been a lawyer-saturated fight between tech-industry giants has become a conversation between the president of the United States and a pink-haired electrical engineer from SoHo.