You Have Got to be F%$#in’ Kidding Me

Another Palmer Moment

Have you heard about the latest patent?

It’s literally for discussing song lyrics:

Have you ever talked about the lyrics of a much-loved song with a friend? Perhaps the discussion took place online? It might surprise you to discover that you’ve gotten pretty darn close to infringing a US patent.

This month, EFF’s Stupid Patent of the Month feature has singled out Patent No. 9,401,941, owned by CBS Interactive, which has claimed its monopoly to “processing user interactions with song lyrics.” The patent’s big reveal is a “computer-implemented system” for “processing interactions with song lyrics.” Supposedly, this adds to existing technology by allowing a user to select particular parts of songs, view a menu, and then write an interpretation of a selected line.

Of course, even if such an idea were patent-worthy, there were already websites offering that feature before the patent’s priority date of 2011. The most notable is perhaps Rap Genius, a website founded in 2009 that is now simply called Genius.

The patent examiner actually pointed out Rap Genius to the applicant, compelling CBS lawyers to narrow their claims. They added a clause saying that their technology would suggest comments to users based on what type of comments have been written in the past. That narrower definition is unlikely to be infringed by many lyrics sites, but even the narrower definition should not have resulted in a patent grant, argues EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer, who wrote the blog post.


Faced with the prospect of a never-ending search for an exact list of features proposed by the applicant, the examiner eventually gives up and grants the patent. That may be what happened here.

Even aside from older technology, the patent, which was filed in 2015, should have been rejected under the Supreme Court’s Alice precedent, argues Nazer. It’s a series of routine Web development decisions, and that’s exactly the type of “generic” computer technology the 2014 Alice decision should have rendered unpatentable.

The Alice in question is Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, where the Supreme Court ruled that just because you add “With a computer” to an unpatentable idea does not make the idea a patentable one.

We seriously need to fix our patent review process.

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