This American Life has updated its 2011 story on patent trolls, “When Patents Attack!” The humble apostrophe plays a part in events recounted in the update, proving to be the crucial bit of evidence in a court case over patent rights. The question: does the apostrophe in the words Jack Byrd’s idea mean that the idea was Jack Byrd’s? (I know: well, duh.) The man who wrote those words and received a patent for the idea, Chris Crawford, explains:
“As I’ve written documents over the years, there are times when I use an apostrophe-s, and it seems like I’m supposed to use an apostrophe-s. But I have to say that my grammar is not strong enough to tell you right now with clarity when an apostrophe-s is used.”What’s at stake goes far beyond Jack Byrd and Chris Crawford.
“When Patents Attack!” (TAL, July 22, 2011)
“When Patents Attack . . . Part Two!” (TAL, May 31, 2013)
[I am usually on a two-week delay in getting to episodes of This American Life.]