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USPTO Issues Provisional Storyline Patent

CowboyNeal posted about 9 years ago | from the thought-of-that-first dept.

Patents 453

cheesedog writes "The USPTO will issue the first storyline patent in history today, with two others following in the next few months. Right to Create points out that this was anticipated several months ago in a story by Richard Stallman published in the The Guardian, UK. With the publication of this not-yet-granted patent, its author can begin requiring licensing fees for anyone whose activities might fall within its claims, including book authors, movie studies, television studios and broadcasters, etc. The claims appear to cover the literary elements of a story involving an ambitious high school student who applies for entrance to MIT and prays to remain sleeping until the acceptance letter comes, which doesn't happen for another 30 years."

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USPTO Broken (5, Funny)

TheSpoom (715771) | about 9 years ago | (#13947758)

RMS: If patent law had been applied to novels in the 1880s, great books would not have been written.

USPTO: Ooh, good idea!

Seriously, the US patent system is very broken, and it appears they are moving in a direction to expand, rather than contract, the amount of things that are patentable. They clearly have no care for whether the patents they grant are stifling innovation. Action is needed to reverse this, but I doubt we'll see it while Bush is still in power.

Re:USPTO Broken (1)

Senes (928228) | about 9 years ago | (#13947791)

You think this is bad, just wait until someone patents "hero fights villian." That's pretty much on par with some of the things other kinds of pattents are issued for.

Quick, someone write a story of a man who makes his entire living suing people and patent it.

Re:USPTO Broken (5, Insightful)

Guspaz (556486) | about 9 years ago | (#13947886)

You think that's bad, wait until you realize that this means that books written outside the US will be banned inside the US because the represent patent infringement.

The US is going to start banning books

I wonder how they're going to dispose of confiscated books, hmm? Perhaps burning them would be an efficient and effective way to destroy them.

Yes, of course, the US must confiscate and burn all banned books! Because this is what capitalistic democracies do to protect their citizens.

How many rights does a democracy have to curtail or eliminate before it ceases to be a democracy?

Think I'm overreacting? Then think of all the rediculous things that software patents have allowed and then apply that to BOOKS.

Wait, Slashdot sensationalism alert. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947802)

Linked article title:

U.S. Patent Office Publishes the First Patent Application to Claim a Fictional Storyline; Inventor Asserts Provisional Rights Against Hollywood

Thanks to the posters below, thought I would put it up here so people see it.

- TheSpoom

Re:Wait, Slashdot sensationalism alert. (1)

Rei (128717) | about 9 years ago | (#13947822)

Let me rebold that for you:

U.S. Patent Office Publishes the First Patent Application to Claim a Fictional Storyline; Inventor Asserts Provisional Rights Against Hollywood

Artificial Intelligence & Patents in a Story (0, Offtopic)

22RealMcCoy (864375) | about 9 years ago | (#13947899)

From the novel Autumn Rangers: []

The alarm interrupted the Geeks' game of Quake and brought Tucker running into the control room from his office.
"It's Ranger's signature attack," Geek1 said. "He's scrambling it, but it's him." Geek1 was what everyone called him.
"Impossible," Tucker said. "Ranger's dead."
"It's him." APRIL said. "He's alive."
In a Cold War weapons lab a mile deep in Doom Mountain, Tucker Johnson's frown was bathed in APRIL's soft blue glow. He looked at her through double-pained, bullet-proof glass. Her biosilicon computers had grown to fill four seven-foot racks, networked with billions of nano-fiberoptics she herself had designed. Somebody had just hacked into her deeper soul.
As the CEO of Silicon Virtue, Tucker presided over a team of master Geeks at the bridge and an army of slave Geeks manning cubicles on a vast floor behind them. Behind them sat the legions of patent lawyers patenting any and every aspect of APRIL that might or might not be, using the random patent-claims generator software APRIL invented to bolster patent production. Tucker would outsource their jobs to India and Asia soon enough, but they needed to get off the runway asap to close the next round of venture funding. Silicon Virtue, founded upon the APRIL (Artistic Psyche-Robotics Interface) technology invented by Ranger, was seven months old. They had to hack or reverse-engineer the source code to her deeper soul, or there'd be no IPO.
"We could Open Source APRIL and get the hacker community to reverse-engineer her." Tucker said. "Would that speed it up?"
"Definitely. We should Open Source APRIL." Geek1 said. "Such knowledge needs to be shared. She's based on natural algorithms which are discovered rather than invent--"
"But then we wouldn't own her." Tucker backtracked. "Let's try to hack her a few more months on our own--keep on patenting her--as long as the patents pass the examiners in DC, she's patentable."
"But it's not right--you can't--"
"What do you think Geek2?" Tucker asked.
"Keep APRIL closed and proprietary." Geek2 said. "Patent the hell out of her. It's our time, money, superior expertise, and--"
"But Ranger invented the basics--we'd just be fencing off his mountaintop. And plus we can't compete with a world of hackers--"
"Hackers can't compete with a world of patent lawyers," Tucker joked.
"Something this big is meant to be Open Source," Geek1 said. "Shared like the laws of physics. Ranger would've--"
"Open Source can't be trusted." Geek2 interrupted. "It won't scale for an enterprise system like APRIL--"
"We can't be trusted." Geek1 said. "APRIL's power will be immense. If we--"
"Well you two figure it out--write it up for Friday's meeting." Tucker would always say and head out to play golf.
APRIL had grown since Ranger last saw her at MIT, before his advisor Dr. Kervian "forgot" to renew Ranger's fellowship, and they reactivated him to fly the F/A-22 Raptor on its first live missions. Ranger was a Top Gun. Uncle Sam had granted him leave to pursue a Ph.D. developing the F/A-22 Raptor Radar. But once in the lab, it was hard to concentrate on Dr. Kervian's projects, as radar, retinas, physics, poetry, and AI all bled into one. It was a myth of the small mind that physics and engineering and poetry different fields, that one could truly know one without knowing them all, that one could enjoy a symphony without hearing by just counting the notes. And soon Ranger got to thinking about Beatrice's soul. Was there a chance of bringing it back?
And so he lost himself in MIT's heaven of well-funded labs, free to follow his passions in the good company of fearless grad-students, with a soldering iron in one hand and a lab book in the other, pioneering the western frontier of knowledge. But no heaven on earth lasts for more than a second, and Uncle Sam called him on home to serve. Uncle Sam invested millions into each Top Gun, and thus they were only granted leave in rare circumstances--Dr. Kervian had sponsored Ranger's leave, as Dr. Kervian made his living off of brilliant grad students, and as Ranger had actually flown the Raptor, who better to help design the radar? On the way out the door at MIT, Ranger hacked the system and gave himself a Ph.D.--it could come in handy, if ever he needed something to write on. And Kervian wouldn't complain--the more Ph.D.'s a professor produced, the more funds they got to hire more slaves.
APRIL enjoyed building herself, designing chips based on nanotechnologies she developed and designing the fab labs where the chips were manufactured via nanoassemblers she designed. Science was easy to APRIL--it was all already there, laid out when God created the universe--all she had to do was notice it.
From the novel Autumn Rangers: []

Re:USPTO Broken (1)

Spacejock (727523) | about 9 years ago | (#13947922)

Maybe someone could patent that storyline where a space-faring couple are marooned on a planet ... and his name is Adam. Slush readers the world over would cheer their overworked eyeballs out.

Other than that, the concept of patenting a story idea sucks duck balls. Never mind the sheer mass of published work ... can you imagine anyone scanning umpteen zillion unpublished short stories and novels for prior art? Whew.

Re:USPTO Broken (5, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13947941)

> Can you imagine anyone scanning umpteen zillion unpublished short stories and novels for prior art? Whew.

Oh puhleeese. These bozos (the USPTO) couldn't find prior art if somebody filed a patent for fire fer chrissake.

Re:USPTO Broken (4, Insightful)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | about 9 years ago | (#13947959)

Action is needed to reverse this, but I doubt we'll see it while Bush is still in power.

I'm not a Bush fan in the slightest, but I don't see it being the kind of thing a Democrat president would give a crap about, either. Whoever is president when some ridiculously hyped movie gets its opening delayed by litigation will be the president to fight it.

Reality TV (5, Funny)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 9 years ago | (#13947764)

Hopefully someone will patent reality TV shows. I am rather sick of those.

Wait no, this wont work. You need to have a story to be able to patent it. Soon all that will be on the air is reality TV. Noooo!

I've got a storyline patent too. (5, Funny)

Maradine (194191) | about 9 years ago | (#13947767)

Claim 1: a communication process that represents, in the mind of a reader, the concept of a character who is so shocked and enraged by the concept of patenting a storyline, that he "snaps" (see USPTO #12006213391)

Claim 2: a communication process according to claim 1, wherein said character subsequently goes to his bedroom, where he keeps a loaded Glock 32C, and racks the slide.

Claim 3: a communication process according to claims 1 and 2, wherein said character subsequently flies to DC and unloads his plastic fantasic on an unsuspecting USPTO in a singlular act of biblical fury.

Claim 4: a communication process according to claims 1 2, and 3, wherein said character subsequently returns to his hometown and has a slurpy, cosmic justice being served.

Re:I've got a storyline patent too. (1)

slashbob22 (918040) | about 9 years ago | (#13947917)

Claim 5: a communication process by a former employee which results in a boss throwing a chair across their office and then threatening to "kill Google".

Naaa, too far fetched.

Re:I've got a storyline patent too. (1)

rco3 (198978) | about 9 years ago | (#13947995)

Dude, I was just thinking about that EXACT storyline. Wonder which of us will patent it first? Hey, and then we can sue the dude that actually does it! I love this.

What a wanking monkey... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947770)

Patenting for the sake of patenting.
Ok, time to move on. Let's abolish the patent system altogether.

Re:What a wanking monkey... (1)

billsoxs (637329) | about 9 years ago | (#13947796)

With a 'patent' on

The claims appear to cover the literary elements of a story involving an ambitious high school student who applies for entrance to MIT and prays to remain sleeping until the acceptance letter comes, which doesn't happen for another 30 years."

you might have a good idea to abolish the patent system altogether. - Hey I just thought, maybe your idea is patentable!

You aint seen nothing yet (2, Interesting)

aussie_a (778472) | about 9 years ago | (#13947772)

So y'all thought software patents were evil incarnate. Well it was only a matter of time until someone came along and made them look reasonable. And here it is.

This is so fucking depressing. Do Australians have to honour this patent within Australia? Did the government fuck us over with a treaty that makes it so any of our work falls under this god-forsaken piece of shit?

Re:You aint seen nothing yet (4, Funny)

patio11 (857072) | about 9 years ago | (#13947875)

On behalf of all Americans, I apologize if our screwy patent office has deprived Aussies of their God-given liberty to write bad novels combining MIT and Rip van Winkle.

Re:You aint seen nothing yet (1)

Trepalium (109107) | about 9 years ago | (#13947883)

For the ultimate insult, they're using software patents as justification for their story plot patents. On the other hand, this might work out rather well -- what better way to get software patent law reformed?

Where am I... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947773)

I don't know why they want to spend billions going to Mars... this planet is bizzare enough.

Re:Where am I... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947954)

Mental note.

Patent the idea of a human walking on another planet.

Publish, not issue (5, Informative)

Aneurysm9 (723000) | about 9 years ago | (#13947774)

Get it right. Even the article does. These are patent applications that are being published because of a recent statutory change requiring publication of all patent applications 18 months after filing. This has nothing to do with whether or not letters patent will be granted.

Re:Publish, not issue (1)

max born (739948) | about 9 years ago | (#13947915)

Not yet but,

Before a patent will issue, however, the application must overcome the hurdles of utility, novelty, and nonobviousness found in U.S. patent laws.

Which means if the idea has utility, novelty, and is nonobvious a patent can be issued.

And if the same guy who issued the Amazon cookie patent is working that day, this guys idea for a story may well be patented.

Re:Publish, not issue (1)

cheesedog (603990) | about 9 years ago | (#13947998)

You don't have it quite right. This is a provisional patent. A full patent has not yet been granted on merit, but its author can begin the shakedown today.

Please see the "Features" section [] of the USPTO explanation of provisional patents: "enables immediate commercial promotion of the invention with greater security against having the invention stolen."

Of course, any 'infringers' of this patent could ignore the cease-and-desist letters sent out by Mr. Knight, but they'd be doing so at great risk, as those actions would be actionable once the patent is awarded.

Does this make any sense? Of course not. But that's our patent system for you.

They haven't issued anything (5, Informative)

imthesponge (621107) | about 9 years ago | (#13947776)

U.S. Patent Office Publishes the First Patent Application to Claim a Fictional Storyline; Inventor Asserts Provisional Rights Against Hollywood


Will Knights claimed storyline pass the rigors of nonobviousness and issue as a U.S. Patent? ...

Patent these quickly! (2, Insightful)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | about 9 years ago | (#13947779)

[wo]man vs. nature
[wo]man vs. [wo]man
[wo]man vs. the environment
[wo]man vs. machines/technology
[wo]man vs. the supernatural
[wo]man vs. self
[wo]man vs. god/religion

That pretty much covers everything.

Re:Patent these quickly! (4, Funny)

Maradine (194191) | about 9 years ago | (#13947806)

Leaving us the fertile artistic ground of [The Environment vs. Nature] and [The Machines vs. God]. I am *so* in.


The first truly universal porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947881)

Books with hot [wo]man on [wo]man action! You are a genius.

Re:Patent these quickly! (1)

kfg (145172) | about 9 years ago | (#13947933)

You forgot to close the Disney anthropomorphization loophole.

Loopholes hate when you do that.


Re:Patent these quickly! (3, Funny)

Drantin (569921) | about 9 years ago | (#13947973)

entity vs. (other) entity
entity vs. circumstance(s)
entity vs. nonentity

Reductio ad Absurdum (4, Informative)

ewhac (5844) | about 9 years ago | (#13947786)

...And here are the assholes [] who have been doing the legal legwork to make this possible. Here is their argument in law [] , which draws heavily on the flawed, idiotic precedents established with software patents.

The system is now officially broken, and anyone who takes the USPTO seriously after today is part of the problem.


Followup (2, Insightful)

ewhac (5844) | about 9 years ago | (#13947813)

Okay, so they haven't actually granted the patent yet; it's only an application at this stage.

However, the fact that the USPTO accepted the application at all merely reinforces my assertion: The USPTO is now officially broken.


Re:Followup (1)

aussie_a (778472) | about 9 years ago | (#13947872)

USPTO has no incentive to not accept and issue this patent. Here's how USPTO gets many:
* Accepting patent claims
* Issuing patents (okay, this ones only possible, however)
* Investigating validity of an issued patent.

Here is how USPTO loses money:
* No action results in a loss of money, only in a gain of money.

If USPTO was fined every time it accepted issued a bad patent it would be in their interest not to issue terrible patents. As it is now, they have no such incentive.

Re:Followup (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about 9 years ago | (#13947877)

Nah, they're obligated to accept it, so long as the paperwork and fees are all proper. Only when it's accepted can it be examined and rejected. It would be bad if the PTO rejected applications out of hand without actually examining them first.

Re:Followup (5, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | about 9 years ago | (#13947894)

Nah, they're obligated to accept it, so long as the paperwork and bribe are all proper.

You misspelt bribe. I corrected it in my quote for you.

Re:Reductio ad Absurdum (2, Insightful)

jerometremblay (513886) | about 9 years ago | (#13947864)

Actually, I really hope it is granted. The more abused the system is, the quicker it will have to be fixed.

Maybe the MPAA and RIAA will have to put those lawers to a good use for once.

Re:Reductio ad Absurdum (5, Insightful)

ewhac (5844) | about 9 years ago | (#13947982)

Maybe the MPAA and RIAA will have to put those lawers [sic] to a good use for once.

Are you kidding? The MPAA will pee themselves with delight over this. They will support this wholeheartedly.


The issue of, "Who owns the story," is a thorny one in Hollywood. Professional screenwriters -- many of whom, by the way, are unionized because the studios kept abusing them way back when -- often retain the copyrights to their stories. Among other things, copyright affords the author the right to enjoin performance of their story in most media (since those are derivative works). However, copyright's scope is limited. You only have a case against a studio if the copying was direct. If the studio's work was substantially similar, then you get to sit in court for years and argue exactly how similar it was, and whether the studio's work A) constitutes plagiarism, and B) whether the degree of plagiarism is sufficient to warrant punishment by the courts. See Buchwald vs. Paramount [] for an example of how messy this can get.

Further, if a writer feels that s/he's being maltreated by the studios, s/he can vote with their feet and simply choose to work for someone else under different, hopefully better conditions. (In practice, this is more difficult than I'm making it sound.)

However, if plotline elements can be patented, then there will be a mad rush by the studios to acquire as many patents as possible. Once done, screenwriters will no longer be able to ply their trade without being expressly licensed by the studio to do so. The balance of power will shift massively to the studios, who will wield absolute veto power over who may write screenplays, and under what circumstances. ("I want to retain rights to the story." "I'm sorry; we don't offer plot element licenses under those conditions.")

This will also effectively kill those pesky independent screenwriters and film studios, since the large studios will simply refuse to license the plot elements. (The large studios won't have any difficulty; they'll merely cross-license with each other.) The studios could also, if they so wished, break the screenwriters' union overnight.

And, of course, you'll hear a bunch of self-serving blathering about how film production is massively expensive, and successful film plots are already hard to come by, so successful plot elements should be afforded the maximum protection possible because, darn it, it was expensive to develop. This "reasoning" is, of course, complete bullshit, but it'll play well in the trade magazines and the halls of Congress.


Re:Reductio ad Absurdum (1)

TX297 (861307) | about 9 years ago | (#13947869)

I vote we *cough* give them a call and let them know how we feel.

Now I'm not going to make myself liable by putting their phone number on the internet but I think the poster above me knows where to find it... []

Re:Reductio ad Absurdum (2, Interesting)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | about 9 years ago | (#13947892)

...And here are the assholes who have been doing the legal legwork to make this possible. Here is their argument in law, which draws heavily on the flawed, idiotic precedents established with software patents.
Okay... this is either going to burn karma like there's no tomorrow, or be a huge piece of whoring.

Good On 'Em!

Yeah, that's right, I'm cheering.

The law appears to allow it. The law is probably broken. Will anything be done about how broken the law is unless people realise it's broken? 'Course not, it never is... unless it's something that threatens your or my "national interests", but that's straying into "-1 Offtopic" and "-1 Flamebait" territory.

So, if things are broken, and they won't get fixed until someone is caught taking advantage of the situation, then let them try to take advantage of the situation and let the public know!

And here's their email: (2, Informative)

Sebby (238625) | about 9 years ago | (#13947948)

Have they patented.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947788)

the process of bombing the USPTO?

Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947792)

The Repuklicans pro-business interest (in getting funding [] for election fraud [] and TV commercials) is behind the changing of patent law to make it a farce. Being anti-science is being pro-Bush. Being anti-science is supporting the patent "reforms" bought and paid for by the special interests fudning the Republikan party. By the way, for those who look to blame others, the House, Senate, Judiciary and Presidency are all over-run with Republican majorities. So, don't go looking to blame others for the problems created by these crooks. If you do, explain who is fixing the problem today???

Thanks, Bush, for being anti-science. You have done so much to help the future of this country. So much.

Thine future? (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | about 9 years ago | (#13947793)

Didn't Shakespeare already write all the blockbuster plots?

Whoever owns him will be bigger than Elvis.

Uh oh... []

Re:Thine future? (1)

ewhac (5844) | about 9 years ago | (#13947834)

Didn't Shakespeare already write all the blockbuster plots?

Yes, but he didn't file a patent or SIR application with the USPTO; therefore they're not part of the corpus of prior art. So they're still up for grabs.


P.S: I call dibs on, "Twelfth Night."

Re:Thine future? (1)

oboreruhito (925965) | about 9 years ago | (#13947854)

If you're thinking about commenting with "HOOK 'EM HORNS," note that I have already patented the use of that phrase, as well as the raising of the index and pinky fingers while closing the rest, when referring to a university in the South in a celebratory manner.

You can still use it ironically without infringement, though. I promise

Rip Van Winkle: The Teenage Years (1)

istewart (463887) | about 9 years ago | (#13947794)

You could probably go back and find folk tales throughout history that are superficially the same, this just has a couple pertinent details changed. Oh, and I imagine that the rest of the story after the 30-year timeline has elapsed is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, like that one Brendan Fraser flick where he grows up in a fallout shelter?

I also thought that this was supposed to be covered by copyright law, but apparently this guy wants insurance in case somebody comes along with a better or more widely-acclaimed version of such a story.

Re:Rip Van Winkle: The Teenage Years (1)

Mateito (746185) | about 9 years ago | (#13947880)

I also thought that this was supposed to be covered by copyright law, but apparently this guy wants insurance in case somebody comes along with a better or more widely-acclaimed version of such a story.

Copyright only covers the relization or manifestation of an idea, not the idea itself. So you can't copyright the idea of "a painting full of red and yellow swirls in a representation of sunflowers", but once you paint it, then its yours. Similar with storylines and movie plots.

Re:Rip Van Winkle: The Teenage Years (1)

mellon (7048) | about 9 years ago | (#13947946)

The way patent law works is that you can patent an innovation based on an old invention. This patent is clearly a derivative of the Rip van Winkel method, but it contains novel functionality, so it's elegible to be patented. The story Rip van Winkel does not infringe, but if the author of this patent is clever, he can probably register patents with sufficient claims to make it difficult for an author to write a story in the tradition of Rip van Winkel. In effect, he will be able to corner the market. Pharmaceutical companies do this all the time - it's business as usual.

I can't wait until someone starts patenting guitar picking and fretting styles. Soon we will have nothing left to do but meditate. That's probably safe until they figure out a way to reliably observe what your mind is doing, and then you'll have to stop doing things that are covered by patents.

We are getting a little bit carried away here, since the PTO hasn't actually granted the patent yet, but the fact that there's someone out there who's willing to put their name on a patent application like this is amazing. This person is lower than a spammer.

I patent the love scene (1)

varmittang (849469) | about 9 years ago | (#13947797)

Male romances Female with witty remarks at party or dinner, then they make love back at his/her place.

Re:I patent the love scene (1)

faqmaster (172770) | about 9 years ago | (#13947910)

For a regular Slashdot reader that would qualify as original and non-obvious.

Re:I patent the love scene (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947944)

Male romances Female with witty remarks at party or dinner, then they make love back at his/her place.

I claim prior art.

What about prior art? (1)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about 9 years ago | (#13947800)

From the USPTO link: Before a patent will issue, however, the application must overcome the hurdles of utility, novelty, and nonobviousness found in U.S. patent laws.

Is prior art no longer considered? I would think that it would be really tough to come up with an original literary element considering the amount of material published before this new type of patent...

Re:What about prior art? (2, Insightful)

sharkb8 (723587) | about 9 years ago | (#13947838)

Novelty and nonobviousness are where prior art comes in. Novelty essentially means that a applicaiton is not exactly the same as another (or a combination of) patent/reference. Unobviousness means that an application is not so close to another (or a combination of) patents and references.

No way this gets past utility.

Re:What about prior art? (1)

Aneurysm9 (723000) | about 9 years ago | (#13947853)

Did you miss the part about novelty and nonobviousness? Novelty means that it must present something new to the state of the art, i.e., not contained in the prior art. Nonobviousness means that whatever is novel in the new application must not be an obvious combination of elements of two or more pieces of prior art. That said, the extent of the prior art consideration is generally a basic search of prior patents and applications, all other prior art is generally left to later challenges to the validity of an issued patent.

Re:What about prior art? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13947878)

God, I feel sooooo much better now. The USPTO's record on recognizing "prior art" and "non-obviousness" is pretty much unimpeachable to date. [/heavy-scarcasm-my-ass,I'm-lying-here]

The Worst Part Is... (2, Funny)

susano_otter (123650) | about 9 years ago | (#13947801)

... that's got to be the lamest story line I've ever heard.

Not to mention the fact that Rip Van Winkle, King Arthur, and Sleeping Beauty are all prior art.


Sleeping Beauty?

Maybe the worst part is what Disney is going to do to this guy...

Impressive Prior Art Though... (2, Interesting)

GaryPatterson (852699) | about 9 years ago | (#13947807)

There's a good body of prior art out there to invalidate many patents. All you need to do is work on an existing story archetype. That's a pretty wide range, covering the entire literary world to date.

According to Joseph Campbell, nearly all good stories conform to a standard cycle (the name of which eludes me right now), making all heroic-type stories unpatentable.

Shame about originality though. And also a shame that if someone comes to sue you, you've got to go through a long process to prove that you weren't copying their stuff. The one with the biggest legal bill will probably win.

What was wrong with copyright anyway? All works of fiction are under copyright, and there are existing ways to deal with transgressions. Plagiarism is anethema to real authors, as well.

Re:Impressive Prior Art Though... (2, Interesting)

Joel from Sydney (828208) | about 9 years ago | (#13947991)

It's called the Hero's Journey (also known as the monomyth). Essentially there's only two types of stories: the Hero's Journey and the Ritual Occasion.

Patenting fiction? (1)

aaza (635147) | about 9 years ago | (#13947809)

Doesn't fictional work come under "Copyright" rather than "Patent"?

If Knight just copyrights the story, there should be no issue. Patenting it seems like a stupid move - although it effectivly locks out any one else from writing a story about the following:

  • going to sleep based on a wish/prayer
  • trying to regain memories you don't have
  • philosophy of life

(my list, not one that I've seen) plus any others covered.

Compare the list above with the list below:

  • Sleeping Beauty
  • We Can Remember It For You Wholesale/Total Recall
  • Sophie's World

Anybody spot the prior art?

Re:Patenting fiction? (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | about 9 years ago | (#13947871)

I see you are a Philip K Dick fan ;)

Re:Patenting fiction? (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about 9 years ago | (#13947977)

Copyrights and patents have nonoverlapping subject matter.

Copyrights are for creative works; expressions of ideas. Patents are for inventions, regardless of implementation.

Copyrighting a story only lets you get that expression of the underlying idea. Anyone else is free to use the idea, even if they distill it from the copyrighted work. Drawing the line between idea and expression is tricky, but the more abstract, the more likely that it's an idea. It's okay to have many coexisting works that have the same underlying ideas.

A patent on a story would be more like having protection on the underlying plot. No one could write a story using the plot, even if the story was otherwise different.

We can find a good analogy in the software field: you could patent a program that did a certain thing (let's say spreadsheet programs, assuming that you invented it, filed early enough, etc.). You could also copyright your specific implementation of a spreadsheet program. The patent prevents other people from writing spreadsheet software, however they do it. The copyright prevents other people from copying your specific program, but doesn't protect spreadsheet programs generally, like a patent would.

Of course, there are no good arguments against software patents other than one. It's pretty widely accepted that a machine ought to be patentable. What's the difference, then, between a mechanical calculator, with many gears and so forth, that can add, subtract, and so forth, or an electronic calculator that does the same with hardwired transistors, or software that does the same on a general purpose platform? There's no good line, and certainly nothing in the statutes that would support drawing a line. Likewise, method patents are perfectly reasonable in the main. If you invent a way of turning lead into gold, why shouldn't you be able to get a patent on it? Similarly, what's the difference between a method of doing that, and a method of selling things online, in a particular fashion?

No, the good argument against software patents, business method patents, etc. is that they're simply unnecessary. Patents are intended to encourage the creation, disclosure, and use of inventions. But these fields are already rife with incentives to create and use, and disclosure tends to come naturally enough. The name 'one click shopping' or a demonstration of it in action is enough disclosure for any PHOSITA. So what would more incentives accomplish? Furthermore, the exclusive rights are actually impairing progress in the field far more than they're encouraging it. We're worse off with patents in these areas than we would be without them. Now, this might not always be true, and I don't mind looking at these fields from time to time to see if they've matured and slowed down such that patents are of some utility. But at present, they're doing more harm than good.

Unfortunately, the courts can't do anything about this. There are no good arguments that exclude software and so on from the field of patentable subject matter given what the law is now. Instead, this is a policy argument that has to be addressed to Congress. Good luck with that.

Slashdot idiot headline (1, Redundant)

ucblockhead (63650) | about 9 years ago | (#13947811)

Did the submitter RTFA? The patent is not being "issued". They are merely making the patent application public.

What 's the scope? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 9 years ago | (#13947814)

but the concept of a p-zombie really hasn't filtered into the public conciousness.. any film that adequately explained it would probably be smash hit. Simply because we all love zombies and anything novel is, by definition, fun. I wonder if his storyline patent would actually cover a completely different storyline that just happened to include the concept of a p-zombie.

VOID the patent, prior art exists (1)

swschrad (312009) | about 9 years ago | (#13947815)

Rip Van Winkel as a story is almost 200 years old, too.

isn't there supposed to be some sort of requirement that patent examiners be alive, breathing, and not vegetables? if so, they are surely not meeting it in their hiring.

Not so novel a concept. (1)

Rahga (13479) | about 9 years ago | (#13947816)

"...applies for entrance to MIT and prays to remain sleeping until the acceptance letter comes, which doesn't happen for another 30 years"

Okay, we all know McJobs suck, and people do sleep through them for 30 years while waiting for something better to come along... but this patent had better cite prior art involving wannabe actors who spend their entire adult lives as waitstaff. If not, I'll be first in line to march on the patent office and demand examiners that aren't brain dead.

Palm Sunday. (5, Interesting)

killjoe (766577) | about 9 years ago | (#13947820)

In his book Palm Sunday Kurt Vonnegut talks about a project he completed in school where he graphed the happiness curve of the main character over the course of the book/story. He examined many popular stories and found out that all of the stories he looked at shared only a handful of common graphs. It's been a while but I remember him saying that the book of genesis has the same graph as cinderalla for example.

Whoever patents the five or six storylines that are the basis for virtually all books will become richer then Bill Gates.

The neat thing about this is that you don't have to actuall write the books yourself. The patent office punishes the people who get off their ass and do things while rewarding people who get in the patent line early and patent things they have never built or made.

Re:Palm Sunday. (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | about 9 years ago | (#13947942)

Actually, what is likely to happen is that virtually any literary patent will be vulnerable to prior art claims. Unless you get very, very specific, it is exceedingly difficult to describe a story that hasn't been written before.

Re:Palm Sunday. (1)

NoGuffCheck (746638) | about 9 years ago | (#13947952)

My friend studies film at college, he told me that most hollywood movies have the same theme (for want of a better word).

it actually ruins allot of movies for me now.

anyway, movie starts off builds up slowly to a climax, then something goes wrong (billy almost dies etc) then when you think its going to get better, buyt something even worse happens, then it all turns out fine and the movie ends.

next time your watching a movie think about this, youll find its true for most "blockbusters"

wish i could describe it better but its friday afternoon, and my brains been turned off.

Re:Palm Sunday. (2, Interesting)

Joel from Sydney (828208) | about 9 years ago | (#13948003)

You're thinking of the Hero's Journey [] story type. Fits like a glove over pretty much any Hollywood movie you can care to name.

This may be good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947827)

Storyline patents are just as valid as the software patents, i.e. both are equally screwed up and in no way they promote innovation.

Boy meets girl, boy falls in love, blah-blah-blah..., you are infringing on our intellectual property.

This may be good though as it may help the majority of people realize how bad US patent system is.

Someone should patent porno movie plots (3, Funny)

craXORjack (726120) | about 9 years ago | (#13947829)

Cause that industry can afford to pay big bucks and they only have one storyline:

Knock knock!
Who is it?
Pizza Delivery!/Copier Repairman!/Pool Cleaner!

More information about p-zombies (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 9 years ago | (#13947835)

available here [] . I've not seen such a good treatment of it before.

Copyright? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947836)

Isnt this what we have strict copyright law for? Sure software is different and there *maybe* some room for patents there, but surely copyright offers sufficient protection for litertature.

18 months, eh? (1)

NereusRen (811533) | about 9 years ago | (#13947845)

Falls Church, Virginia (PRWEB) November 3, 2005 -- Further to a policy of publishing patent applications eighteen months after filing, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is scheduled to publish history's first "storyline patent" application today. The publication will be based on a utility patent application filed by Andrew Knight in November, 2003, the first such application to claim a fictional storyline.

Yup, that's the USPTO alright.

Re:18 months, eh? (1)

Aneurysm9 (723000) | about 9 years ago | (#13947879)

Perhaps he filed a provisional application in 11/03 and did not file the actual application until 5/04. If my memory of Patent Practice and Procedure serves you have one year after filing a provisional application to submit your claims and finish the application.

When AI Invents, who Owns the Patent? (1)

22RealMcCoy (864375) | about 9 years ago | (#13947921) []

"You'd have to ask the Geeks--but I do know this much--instead of using bits, quantum computer uses quantum bits, or qubits, which contain both states, on and off, at the same time. So a quantum circuit can assess all possible states simultaneously, as long as we learn to formulate the problem right. To make a long story short, a quantum computer can solve problems in a few seconds that would take today's computers billions of years. Couple this with APRIL's creative consciousness, and her power will be vast."
"So when APRIL invents, who owns the patents?"
"Silicon Virtue, as APRIL is our employee. Which brings me to--" "How do you know it'll be used for good?" "No--how will you know?" Tucker asked.
Krista looked at him.
"Would you come aboard as our IP lawyer?" He asked.
"You serious?" She asked.
"There's no one better for posthuman bioethics." Tucker meant it sincerely. In a world ruled by sound bites, appearance, and pomo hipsters, articulate intelligence trumped all as long as it was presented by a hot lawyer. APRIL would become Silicon Virtue's lead lawyer--Krista would be the face to sell it, as APRIL's superior logic and reason would offend too many pomo lawyers without some serious buffering.
"Oh Tucker--it's a huge responsibility."
"And a salary to match." "I'll have to think--" Krista thought about her massive student loans. "I'd love to!" "There's something else I need you to think about," Tucker said, producing a small box and freezing her smile. "Will you marry me?"
"Oh Tucker. Tucker. It's so soon." She was about to cry. "Excuse me." Krista rose and headed out to get some air.
She'd buried Ranger's engagement ring only last week. Intelligence said they were sure he was dead, and she'd joined Ranger's mother for a quiet ceremony where they buried his favorite cap, some of his poems, and the engagement ring in place of a body. []

The Headline Is False (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 9 years ago | (#13947846)

> USPTO Issues Provisional Storyline Patent

Wrong. The USPTO published a storyline patent application.

Copy (1)

Bonobo_Unknown (925651) | about 9 years ago | (#13947849)

So if I were to photocopy a page out of a textbook and give it to students would I be a) infringing the patent b) violating copyright c) both? There's a lot of money in this...

Once upon a time (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13947851)

Narrator: There were three bears, a papa bear, a mama bear, and a baby bear. They lived in the forest and, one morning, the mama bear made some porridge and...
Papa Bear: Who is it?
Voice outside the door: Sir? I'm from Hickey, Boyle and Schwartz, attorneys at law, and I have a Cease And Desist Order here...
Papa Bear: OK, wait a minute...

Narrator: Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess, and...
Voice outside the door: Sir?...
Narrator: Oh fer cripessake...

Long ago, in a galax...
Narrator: Doh!
Narrator: Now cut that out!!
Voice outside the door: Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated...
Narrator: Now you're doing it!!

Meh (1)

Dr. Mystery (896982) | about 9 years ago | (#13947852)

It may set a horrible precedent; but it's pretty specific, and a pathetically lame story line.

Patent Office is philosophically broke (3, Informative)

Dark Coder (66759) | about 9 years ago | (#13947858)

Check out the most frivolous and most obvious patents, such as

  1. 'how to swing on a swing set' [] ,
  2. Stamp moistener (with your tongue!!!) [] ,
  3. Towel with a neck loop [] ,
  4. Light bulb changer, weighing over 100 lbs. [] ,
  5. 6 duplicative patents on 'cat toys on a string attached to a stick'1 [] ,2 [] ,3 [] ,4 [] ,5 [] ,6 [] ,

Many of the not so credible patents have inate and self-evident common senses that have been documented by Greek/Roman historians in B.C. times!

This is not what us commoner had envision for our ideal patent system. Oh boy, Adam Smith must be hotly spinning in his grave!

Disclaimer - I, too, am a pending patent holder.

Re:Patent Office is philosophically broke (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13947928)

This [] patent on the comb-over is my personal favourite.

This is the reason that..... (1)

zappepcs (820751) | about 9 years ago | (#13947859)

This is the reason that science fiction writers will always have a job... nothing in any book can be nearly as bizare as the real world when the laws of the US and/or politicians are involved....

Even if no patent is issued, I am unbelievably dumbfounded by this application. Copyright should apply, not patent law... As soon as these kinds of dweebs start messing with patents and online content, delivery, and features, no one in the US will be able to watch or listen to anything, and all the past Hugo award winners will be sitting in their dens laughing, mumbling over and over, "we told you so"

This is *very* exciting (1)

Lost+Found (844289) | about 9 years ago | (#13947868)

This is *very* exciting to me. Why? Because in order for the patent system of the United States (hell, the mere IDEA that you can 'OWN' an IDEA) to die, it has to collapse in on itself like a black hole.


(Oh, and I'm staking my claim here and now for this plot line. Patent pending, motherfuckers.)

Re:This is *very* exciting (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 9 years ago | (#13947965)

I would tend to agree with you, were the franchise to vote, govern, or set policy restricted to those capable of rational thought. Sadly, this is not the case.

Ah, the answer, revealed! (1)

ScrappyLaptop (733753) | about 9 years ago | (#13947903)

If the simplest methods of software, even those that mirror brick-and-mortar methods of business, can be patented, if the idea behind or attributes of a fictional story can be patented...why not a Bill and therefore, the Law it becomes? Eventually the legal system would find itself in the same bleak future that may befall software and now, fiction. I have a feeling that would finally reveal to those that control the US Patent Office budget just how broken the system has become. It would only take one politician to start the ball rolling and once it does, the Republicans and Democrats will jealously guard the laws that they each "own"...wait a second, I need to patent this as a story idea *before* it actually happens!

good (1)

NoGuffCheck (746638) | about 9 years ago | (#13947907)

now my copyright of living will finally go through.

I am licencing out the right to live for a weekly fee of only a million, zillion, kajillion smackaroonies!


Irony (1) (692289) | about 9 years ago | (#13947913)

Could this mean Hollywood teaming up with the open source movement to destroy software patents ? Could music content (i.e. the meaning of the words) be covered. Thus seeing the RIAA teaming up with the open source world as well !

Freedom of the Press? (1)

egburr (141740) | about 9 years ago | (#13947926)

I wonder how Story Plot patents and Freedom of the Press will collide? Which will win, and how many years will it take to resolve it?

Possible suggestion to END PATENTS (1)

Lost+Found (844289) | about 9 years ago | (#13947932)

I have an idea to help bring about the end of patents. How much do they actually cost to file, without an attorney? We should all pool our resources (everyone being all of those that think patents have gone wild, from corporations to individuals) and write as many patents for as many possible things as we can think of. File, file, file, file, file a trillion patents until you're liable for damages if you're not careful about how you lock your door at home. I'm starting to be convinced that the only way to deal with this nonsense is to send it soaring ahead, because hell, maybe it would just burn up in the atmosphere.

Re:Possible suggestion to END PATENTS (1)

ScrappyLaptop (733753) | about 9 years ago | (#13947963)

Yeeeaah. Almost every large corporation with an R&D group has already tried your Denial of Service, if only you could patent the idea of flooding a patent-granting office with frivolous patents, you could take down all of them in one move!

Re:Possible suggestion to END PATENTS (1)

Lost+Found (844289) | about 9 years ago | (#13948012)

Yes, but bear with me for a moment. There are a *lot* of people who don't like software patents, and there are a *lot* of people who won't like plot patents, and there are a *lot* of people like me that don't like patents at all.

If we all formed trusts, patented everything we could think of - not with the intent of making money, but with the intent of flooding the market, we could end up with a really big cannon to aim at anyone who tries to use their patents to act obnoxiously.

Open source is already trying this idea to defend itself from software patents, so why not extend it to books and everything else we can think of? Patent everything from ways to keep track of employee timesheets to method and procedure for avoiding getting hit by a car.

the good news is.. (1)

cli_rules! (915096) | about 9 years ago | (#13947934)

that it will be impossible to patent any porn storylines whatsoever (due to the overwhelming amounts of prior art)

Intentional irony? (1)

rdwald (831442) | about 9 years ago | (#13947962)

It seems to me that Knight submitted this patent explicitely to show how stupid storyline patents, and by extension software patents, are. Basically, he took the oft-suggested business method patent on making stupid patents and decided to try a variant of it in reality.

Relieved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13947978)

When I first heard about this I was concerned that all the good storylines would get patented up. Needless to say, when I saw that the first one in line was "MIT-Van Winkle", I was relieved.

Cool! now I have a new sig. (1)

dilby (725275) | about 9 years ago | (#13947986)

Mr Taco, Mr Neal et al. the bill is in the mail.

Hey America (5, Insightful)

Quirk (36086) | about 9 years ago | (#13947987)

You're fucked!

Seriously fucked

What sickens me is your sickness is going to seep into Canada. I'll fight this one tooth and nail.

Really, at the risk of being redundant you are deeply badly fucked.

Slashdot Patents Stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13948004)

This is fucking redundant as hell but fer gods sake s/issues/publishes/ in the freaking posting. I hear the gurgling of the toilet as slashdot circles and I wonder what the heck I am doing coming back here day after day...

I Pray That I... (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 9 years ago | (#13948006)

...fall asleep for twenty years, and when I wake up there has been a revolution in America, and everything is different. Wait... that sounds like some kind of prior art or something. Oh well, you don't need me to point out what a, cough.. ahem... umm... Rip-off this is.

I'll race ya! (1)

Hangin10 (704729) | about 9 years ago | (#13948015)

To patent any dramatic structure that has any "variation of conflict or humorous elements thereof".

Let's see someone not pay us then!
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