This 'Lyric Discussion' Patent Is The Craziest Thing We've Seen

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Have you ever discussed the lyrics of a song you liked with a friend? Perhaps that discussion took place online?

This 'Lyric Discussion' Patent Is The Craziest Thing We've Seen

Have you ever discussed the lyrics of a song you liked with a friend? Perhaps that discussion took place online? It may surprise you to discover that you have gotten pretty darn close to infringing a US patent.


In January 2019, EFF's Stupid Patent of the Month feature has singled out Patent No. 9,401,941, owned by CBS Interactive, that has claimed its monopoly to "processing user interactions with song lyrics." The patent's great reveal is a "computer-implemented system" for "processing interactions with song lyrics." Supposedly, that adds to existing technology by allowing a user to select particular parts of songs, see a menu, and then write an interpretation of a selected line.


Even if such an idea was patent-worthy, there were of course already websites offering the feature before the patent's priority date of 2011. The most notable is maybe Rap Genius, a site founded in 2009 that is now merely called Genius.


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


This 'Lyric Discussion' Patent Is The Craziest Thing We've Seen

Some observations, according to Medium:


  • The patent name is Song lyric processing with user interaction. Rather vague and all-encompassing.
  • It claims the invention of a method to provide to the client device the lyrics for display. All lyrics websites on the web in some way.
  • It claims the invention of methods to process these annotations to display the ‘right’ one to another user and extract valuable insights.
  • It also claims the invention of methods to allow selecting a segment of the lyric and annotating them with meanings, interpretations, ‘mishearings’, sharing on social media. There go Musixmatch and Rapgenius.
  • Many complicated figures like this one below:

This 'Lyric Discussion' Patent Is The Craziest Thing We've Seen

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. This might be what happened here.


Aside from older technology, the patent which was filed in 2015, should have been rejected under the Supreme Court's Alice precedent, Nazer argues. It is a series of routine Web development decisions, and that is precisely the type of "generic" computer technology the 2014 Alice decision should've rendered unpatentable.


The "song discussions" patent is listed at the bottom of songs published by MetroLyrics, a site which was acquired by CBS Interactive in 2011.

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Thinking Humanity: This 'Lyric Discussion' Patent Is The Craziest Thing We've Seen
This 'Lyric Discussion' Patent Is The Craziest Thing We've Seen
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