While patent law may not be the sexiest topic in the world, thanks to the Apple-Samsung trial, it’s been all over the news the past few weeks. But the issues surrounding patent law and how it impacts innovation and entrepreneurship extend beyond the headline-grabbing trials. Companies known as “patent trolls” buy up patents for the sole purpose of suing others for infringement, without intending to make any products of their own. According to one estimate, patent trolls cost technology businesses more than $80 billion a year in indirect costs.
It’s no wonder then that many argue for a major overhaul of US patent laws. Proposed reforms include reducing the profitability of patent infringement suits, preventing patent litigators from “shopping around” to find sympathetic courts, and doing away with software patents altogether.
But hey didn’t the US just implement new patent regulations? Yes, on September 16, 2012, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act took effect. The new law brings about a couple key reforms including “post-grant review,” which adds another avenue to strike down bad patents, and a switch from the longstanding “first-to-invent” rule to the “first-to-file” rule, which keeps the United States in line with the rest of the world. But despite these changes, Timothy B. Lee of Ars Technica calls the America Invents Act “mostly useless.”
To help sort it all out, the Explainer Music team (with help from the ghosts of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla) lay it all out in song.
When you invent something new, no one can sell it but you
You just gotta show the world how it works
You can get yourself a patent and for 20 years
You’ll have exclusive rights in return.
The idea’s to expand public knowledge
And give incentive to innovate
But many say the process is broken
And reform is the only way
You’ve got trolls!
Stirring up madness buying up patents
From companies who went belly up
Won’t ever use them but they’re sure to sue when
Their patents are infringed upon
Thanks to trolls, how much have companies lost?
80 billion a year in indirect costs
There’s no choice but to stockpile patents ourselves
But now you can’t build anything without ripping someone off
Ghost Tesla, what can we do?
Reform the system so less patents are approved
Strike them down using post-grant review
When they’re too obvious or abstract
And don’t let the troll choose any court he likes
Some East Texas courts are too concerned for his plight
And patenting some software may not be right
A phone without a touchscreen’s like a car without tires
Wait what’s the hold-up, we all hate trolls right?
But big tech may not want to risk their own patent rights
Reduce the incentive to sue and what’s awarded
But a lot of the lawyers won’t enjoy getting shorted.
But we’ve caught up to the rest of the world in some respects
Patents go to who first filed not the first to invent
Theres post-grant review thanks to America Invents Act
Now, Tommy can you help me strap on my jetpack