Oct 1, 2012 · 2 minutes

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11KjVyw70_k]

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

But why?

You've got trolls! Stirring up madness buying up patents From companies who went belly up

Yes, trolls! 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