Friday, November 04, 2005

One step closer to oblivion.

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

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will publish history’s first “storyline patent” application today from an application filed in November, 2003. Inventor Andrew Knight will assert publication-based provisional patent rights against the entertainment industry.

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.

Knight, a rocket engine inventor, registered patent agent, and graduate of MIT and Georgetown Law, will assert publication-based provisional patent rights against anyone whose activities may fall within the scope of his published claims, including all major motion picture manufacturers and distributors, book publishers and distributors, television studios and broadcasters, and movie theaters. According to the official Patent Office website, provisional rights “provide a patentee with the opportunity to obtain a reasonable royalty from a third party that infringes a published application claim provided actual notice is given to the third party by [the] applicant, and a patent issues from the application with a substantially identical claim.”

Before a patent will issue, however, the application must overcome the hurdles of utility, novelty, and nonobviousness found in U.S. patent laws. According to Knight, the utility requirement addresses whether an invention falls within statutory subject matter, while novelty and nonobviousness address whether the invention is identical to or impermissibly similar to previous inventions. That fictional storylines may be patentable was first suggested in a November, 2004 article in the Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society, “A Potentially New IP: Storyline Patents.” The article argues that binding case law strongly suggests that methods of performing and displaying fictional plots, whether found in motion pictures, novels, television shows, or commercials, are statutory subject matter, like computer software and business methods.

Regarding the utility requirement, “The case law of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has established that virtually any subject matter is potentially patentable,” explained Jay Thomas, Professor of Law at Georgetown University. Further, “Due to the broad scope of patentable subject matter, novel storylines may fall within the [utility requirement],” said Charles Berman, Co-Chair of the Patent Prosecution Practice at Greenberg Traurig LLP.

The real issue? According to Berman, “Non-obviousness probably presents the biggest challenge to patentability” because minor variations on a central theme may generate so many different storylines. Nevertheless, Knight asserts that his claimed storyline meets all statutory requirements, including nonobviousness.

The fictitious story, which Knight dubs “The Zombie Stare,” tells of an ambitious high school senior, consumed by anticipation of college admission, who prays one night to remain unconscious until receiving his MIT admissions letter. He consciously awakes 30 years later when he finally receives the letter, lost in the mail for so many years, and discovers that, to all external observers, he has lived an apparently normal life. He desperately seeks to regain 30 years’ worth of memories lost as an unconscious philosophical zombie.

Will Knight’s claimed storyline pass the rigors of nonobviousness and issue as a U.S. Patent? If so, the stakes are high. According to Thomas, “Given the robust scope of patent protection provided by the Patent Act… storyline patents potentially provide their owners with a significant proprietary interest.”

The U.S. Patent Office will publish subsequent storyline patent applications, also invented by Knight, on November 17 and December 8 and 22.

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