Congress uses cartoon video to explain the problems with patent trolls and “legalized extortion”

In 2011, Congress tried — and failed — to fix America’s broken patent system with the America Invents Act. Now, reform advocates like Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are trying again with a bigger coalition of supporters, and some novel methods to educate the public about the problem.

This includes a clever YouTube video posted by the House Judiciary Committee, which Goodlatte chairs, that explains how patent trolls engage in “legalized extortion” and make everyday products more expensive for everyone:


The video astutely notes that patent trolls (like the one using a Holocaust foundation’s 1998 patent to sue the New York Times) have been a problem almost as long as the patent system, and how one ambitious troll almost stopped Henry Ford from making the Model-T. It concludes by asking for support for the bipartisan Innovation Act.

It’s a creative effort but, unfortunately, it may be too late. Microsoft(s msft) and IBM, which make significant revenue from patent licenses, have already gutted the most important provision from the proposed law, one that would have made it easier to challenge garbage patents in the first place.

People close to the process, however, say that real reform still stands a chance in the Senate where influential figures like Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. John Corryn have all taken stands against abuse of the patent system.