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The Farnsworth Invention

The play The Farnsworth Invention begins tonight at the Des Moines Community Playhouse. Why would a patent blog write about a play? Well, unbeknownst to me before last night, The Farnsworth Invention is a play about patents. Farnsworth_000It explores patentability, infringement, enablement, interference, licensing and litigation. It even pastes parts of actual patents right into the script. You simply could not ask for any more patent and invention in a single play.

Now I realize the foregoing description already has you on the phone to the Des Moines Playhouse ordering tickets, but there is more. Aaron Sorkin, the playwright who penned A Few Good Men, The West Wing and Sports Night also wrote The Farnsworth Invention. The depth and complexity of the subject matter obviously makes the play a little more inaccessible than most, but Sorkin throws in just enough humor and adult language to keep the non-geeks in the audience interested in the story. While some of the cast at the dress rehearsal seemed to be still sorting out their roles, Michael Davenport did a flawless job as David Sarnoff, narrating the action from Farnsworth’s childhood, up until his eventual death.

While the play is not entirely historically accurate, Sorkin manipulates only those facts necessary to add gravitas and more firmly place the audience in Farnsworth’s shoes. This play examines the invention and patent battles of the most influential device of modern times. It is a must see for geeks, nerds, scientists, inventors, patent lawyers and anyone with a curiosity about how one of the world’s most influential inventions almost never came to be.

Brett Trout

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