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USPTO Issues Provisional Storyline Patent 453

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the thought-of-that-first dept.
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 Issues Provisional Storyline Patent

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  • by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:29PM (#13947758) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      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
    • 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 can you imagine anyone scanning umpteen zillion unpublished short stories and novels for prior art?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.
      • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:05AM (#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.

        • Hmm...that has me thinking.
        • Hey ... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ggvaidya (747058) on Friday November 04, 2005 @03:18AM (#13948530) Homepage Journal
          Could be worse [bbc.co.uk].
        • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:4, Insightful)

          by techiemac (118313) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <cameihcet>> on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:18AM (#13949228)
          There never was a prior art search.
          First of all lets clairify what a provisional patent is... It's not a patent and does not hold the same teeth as a patent does. Simply put, it gives you the right to put Patent Pending on some technology that you are developing. In addition, if you apply for a patent in a years time from time of the filing of the provisional patent, the effective date of the patent (assuming it's approved... not all patents are) is the date of provisional patent filing. Oh, the date of provisional patent filing is the date you drop it off at the post office and send it via registered mail.
          So, today you could write up a provisional patent document (not as formal as an actual patent application but it helps to keep it formal if you are going after the patent), enclose a check for $100.00 if you are an individual, send it via registered mail (not fedex, ups, but usps) and BAM, Patent Pending.
          It doesn't mean you are going to get the patent. It's meant for smaller inventors to potentially apply for patents and decide if they want to invest the $10,000 it typically takes to possibly get a patent. The gives you protection of prior art no matter what so some company can't patent the technology even if you decide not to pursue a patent (as the provisional patent application counts as prior art and assuming the technology is "new and novel"). If you do decide to pursue a patent the effective date of the patent is the date you sent it via registered mail.
    • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:08AM (#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.
      • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RootsLINUX (854452)
        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.

        Okay then...lets all vote CowboyNeal for president. >_>
      • by I am Jack's username (528712) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:03AM (#13948765)
        >> 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.

        So long, and thanks for all the fish — Douglas Adams:

        "On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

        "Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

        "I did," said ford. "It is."

        "So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"

        "It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

        "You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

        "Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

        "But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

        "Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in."

    • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:4, Interesting)

      by happyemoticon (543015) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:57AM (#13948163) Homepage

      I'm going to go back to Jonathan Swift here, in Gulliver's Travels. He claimed that the Yahoos, who were these little dirty, simian versions of humans with no intellect and nothing but greed, hatred, disease and guile, had lawyers. One yahoo found a shiny rock. Another yahoo came and tried to take it away from him. Struggle insues. 3rd yahoo comes in and takes it away from both of them (that's the lawyer).

      Swift would've positively loved this one.

      But anyway, I have to get in a cursory rant about what an apocalyptic crime this is. Feel free to ignore it, i'm sure it'll just be repeated several thousand times over. Now, it's not the fact that a patent may or may not be valid (i.e., conforming to the rules of a sadistic, flawed game), it's the fact that still more needless litigation is being introduced into a system that is already frought with friction. That friction favors the powers that be and makes sure that nothing truly creative ever happens again in the United States. If this shit is allowed to continue, you will never see another dirt-poor writer making it to fame, or another hacker in a basement cooking up the next revolution in technology.

    • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FFFish (7567) on Friday November 04, 2005 @01:26AM (#13948269) Homepage
      Maybe the USPTO is saying "Ooh, good idea!" because it is purposefully committing suicide?

      I mean, that's a weird idea, but it seems to me that they're basically forcing the government to deal with the problem. Surely any halfway intelligent person can see that this system just isn't working
      • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sydb (176695) <michael@w d 2 1 . c o .uk> on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:08AM (#13948905)
        You might be on to something there. It would not be the first time that people do exactly what they are told to do even though they know it's stupid in order to highlight that stupidity. Frequently, trying to explain to those in power that they are wielding their power wrongly just does not work; they need to see the consequences of their actions before they realise they have made a mistake.

        Very insightful.
      • Sane (Score:3, Funny)

        by Tony (765)
        I mean, that's a weird idea, but it seems to me that they're basically forcing the government to deal with the problem. Surely any halfway intelligent person can see that this system just isn't working

        I've highlighted the flaws in your argument. Otherwise, it's the only sane explanation.
    • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      Action is needed to reverse this, but I doubt we'll see it while Bush is still in power.

      While I think the notion of patented storylines is the height of nonsense (and hopefully, this applied-for patent will not actually come to pass), I don't think the current (or any) administration is what you should be bitching about. The Patent Office is a creature of the US Congress. Congress impacts its charter, and its funding. While the USPTO is an agency of the Department of Commerce (and thus, is always under t
  • Reality TV (Score:5, Funny)

    by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:31PM (#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!
  • by Maradine (194191) * on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:32PM (#13947767) Homepage
    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.
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:33PM (#13947772) Journal
    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?
    • by patio11 (857072) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:52PM (#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.
      • by 1u3hr (530656) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:09AM (#13948651)
        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.

        It's a test case. If approved, there will be literally thousands of similar ones approved and used to harrass writers all over the world.

        I found this on the asshole who is making the claim's website [plotpatents.com]:

        As far back as high school, [Andrew Knight] authored various works of short fiction that were published in national magazines,... Since then, he has conceived of a variety of unique fictional storylines. Recognizing that fierce competition for publication and financial reward focused on the quality of storytelling, as opposed to the quality of the underlying storyline itself, and further recognizing that even the world's most skilled storytellers (of which he is clearly not) rarely turn a profit, his unique fictional storylines have matured into pending patent applications instead of novels or screenplays. He thus seeks reward on the true value of his innovations--the underlying storylines--instead of forced, sub-par expressions of these underlying storylines.

        So the same concept as submarine patents: don't create a sellable product, just patent the concept and wait to ambush someone who has the talent to think of it AND bring it to market. The main target will be movie studios I think -- already they have to fight off hacks who claim that someone read their script and stole the idea, now they'd be liable even if the "idea" was never shown to anyone or published.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:33PM (#13947773)
    I don't know why they want to spend billions going to Mars... this planet is bizzare enough.
    • Re:Where am I... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thej1nx (763573)
      I don't know why they want to spend billions going to Mars... this planet is bizzare enough.

      You are wondering why Scientist want to go to Mars ? Self Explanatory. They want to escape all this bizzareness :P

  • Publish, not issue (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aneurysm9 (723000) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:34PM (#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.
    • 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.
  • by imthesponge (621107) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:34PM (#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? ...

  • by Mr. Sketch (111112) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `hcteks.retsim'> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:34PM (#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.
  • Reductio ad Absurdum (Score:5, Informative)

    by ewhac (5844) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:35PM (#13947786) Homepage Journal
    ...And here are the assholes [plotpatents.com] who have been doing the legal legwork to make this possible. Here is their argument in law [plotpatents.com], 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.

    Schwab

    • Followup (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ewhac (5844)
      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.

      Schwab

      • 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.
      • 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.
    • 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.
      • by ewhac (5844) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:14AM (#13947982) Homepage Journal
        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.

        Analysis:

        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 [wikipedia.org] 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.

        Schwab

        • Perhaps the Writers Guild of America could link its screenplay Registry [wga.org] to the Prior Art Database [priorartdatabase.com] or feed directly to the USPTO. Screenwriters routinely submit their manuscripts. In fact, almost no studio, production company or agent will look at an unregistered script. As of about 10 years ago there were around 7,500 scripts registered each year. That should cover just about any conceivable reductionist plot line. Perhaps we can make it so that these people will have to essentially write the full works in
    • ...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? 'Cour

    • by Sebby (238625)
  • Didn't Shakespeare already write all the blockbuster plots?

    Whoever owns him will be bigger than Elvis.

    Uh oh... [utexas.edu]

    • 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.

      Schwab

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

  • 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-
    • 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.

  • Male romances Female with witty remarks at party or dinner, then they make love back at his/her place.
  • 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...
    • 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.
    • 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 o
    • 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]
  • by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:37PM (#13947801) Homepage
    ... 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.

    Hrm.

    Sleeping Beauty?

    Maybe the worst part is what Disney is going to do to this guy...
  • by GaryPatterson (852699) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:38PM (#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.
  • 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 Wholesal
  • Did the submitter RTFA? The patent is not being "issued". They are merely making the patent application public.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "...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. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by killjoe (766577) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:41PM (#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. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:34AM (#13948070) Homepage
      Lots of people have done this type of analysis, and it is quite valuable. That doesn't mean that the subject matter is without merit, however. EVERY Simpsons episode has followed roughly the same structure for ten years, and it still captivates audiences. Ever notice that the first 5 minutes have nothing to do with the next 25? Yup, that's the one.

      Someone is going to mod me up for saying this, then mod me down for being obvious, but read The Hero with a Thousand Faces [amazon.com]. It goes into painstaking detail about the idealized hero story, and yet the structure fits tons of popular and historical media such as Terminator 2, Heart of Darkness, Cowboy Bebop, Tarzan, Blade, Odysseus, the new testament in the Bible, etc, etc.

      There are several other structures out there, and nearly infinite variants, but if you look at media with a critical eye you will find that all good films, books, shows, and games fall into set patterns of challenges, setbacks, losses, and eventual triumph (or not). If I may be so bold, most truly great pieces of media aren't made by artists, but by craftsmen. An artist explores their feelings as they create, producing something which is generally more intellectually engaging than emotionally so. A craftsman knows every tool of their trade, and hones their skills, tricks, and abilities towards controlling the viewer's reaction. Spielberg is a master craftsman. Vonnegut is a craftsman. Even in artistic pieces like Y Tu Mama Tambien, the craftsmanship is present and in the forefront.

      I say this because too many people try to create media from the heart, without realizing that you really need to engage your head thoroughly in order to focus on how to effect the heart of your audience. These people are master magicians: they conjure up images and emotions using smoke and mirrors. And like master magicians, they have to know the routines, and know how to work the routines so that they don't seem like routines. Part of the magic is taking something that was slaved over for years, with every detail hashed out and revised in painstaking detail, and making it look completley natural and unintended.

      But there is magic, there is structure. And if you want to become a magician, you need to give up the magic and learn how it is done.

      • Re:Palm Sunday. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Vengeance (46019)
        I have always thought of that aspect of 'The Simpsons' as being rather akin to Sunday comics. The first splash panel is often unrelated to the comic as a whole.
  • by craXORjack (726120) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:43PM (#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!
    Bow-chicka-bow-bow
  • available here [skepdic.com]. I've not seen such a good treatment of it before.
  • > USPTO Issues Provisional Storyline Patent

    Wrong. The USPTO published a storyline patent application.
  • 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...
    THUMP...THUMP...THUMP
    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...
    THUMP...THUMP...THUMP
    Voice outside the door: Sir?...
    Narrator: Oh fer cripessak

  • by Dark Coder (66759) on Thursday November 03, 2005 @11:48PM (#13947858)
    Check out the most frivolous and most obvious patents, such as

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


    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.
  • 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 w
  • 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.

    CAPTAIN, WE'RE ABOUT TO HIT CRITICAL MASS!

    (Oh, and I'm staking my claim here and now for this plot line. Patent pending, motherfuckers.)
  • 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?
  • Hey America (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quirk (36086) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:14AM (#13947987) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • Marines (Score:5, Funny)

    by LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:23AM (#13948021) Homepage Journal
    What on earth does the statue of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima have to do with this patent company's About Us [plotpatents.com] page?

        They have another reason to be ashamed... Not to mention their whole site looks like it was done in Front Page. Oh wait... It was :)

    meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 5.0"
       
  • by psiber (722466) * on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:29AM (#13948050)

    WTF? The "About Us" section of Knight's website states:

    "Recognizing that fierce competition for publication and financial reward focused on the quality of storytelling, as opposed to the quality of the underlying storyline itself, and further recognizing that even the world's most skilled storytellers (of which he is clearly not) rarely turn a profit, his unique fictional storylines have matured into pending patent applications instead of novels or screenplays. He thus seeks reward on the true value of his innovations--the underlying storylines--instead of forced, sub-par expressions of these underlying storylines." (http://www.plotpatents.com/about_us.htm [plotpatents.com])

    Basically, he wants to get paid for coming up with a story idea and not the work of turning the idea into an actual GOOD story because he is not a skilled storyteller. Here's an idea for you: (1 come up with a good story idea (2 find a skilled storyteller and (3 contract them to write the story (with both names appearing on the work maybe? or not in which case this is just hiring a ghost writer). Oh yeah, he'd have to actually DO THE WORK of looking for a skilled storyteller he is able to work with. How about this one then: (1 come up with a good story idea (2 write a BAD story (3 what for someone to copy it and (4 sue them under copyright law. Oh yeah, the duplicate story would have to be VERY similar to the original to be considered for copyright infringement and would most likely be just as bad as the original and not sell either, so he still would not get paid. I can see why so many foreigners see us Americans as lazy...

    Besides, the idea behind the patent system is you can patent your idea, PRODUCE your idea (which Knight apparently IS NOT GOING TO DO with his story ideas), and try to make money from it without having to worry about a bigger competitor copying your idea and profiting from your creativity... Oh yeah, the patent system is still broken... never mind...

  • Land Grab (Score:3, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Friday November 04, 2005 @01:03AM (#13948182)
    The impression I've been building as I read each example of this kind of crap is that the US through organizations such as the WTO and internally with "IP" laws is trying to grab as big a piece of the pie as it can in the initial Information Age. Nobody knows what the future is going to be like in 20 years but it's a safe bet that if you weight the rules to favor your nation (which doesn't neccessarily mean individuals within it) so that you "own" everything then stategicaly you should be better off. If something like this idea isn't making it's way through the machinery of the US government then they must simply be incompetent or playing pork barrel games.
    You know, in China which tends towards the opposite of US IP laws, every motivated individual still has their stuff but as you work up into business organizations they simply have different rules that make things work their way. For example, music piracy is (more) rampant in China so instead of record labels sitting back and raking in the dough there are no record labels and artists are paid through corporate sponsorships - different systems that accomplish the same effect of getting a person their music.
  • Good news! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JamesTRexx (675890) <m.nystrom@mb i t z . nl> on Friday November 04, 2005 @02:27AM (#13948427) Homepage Journal
    Hollywood will die slowly as a new Hollywood without patent restrictions will emerge in Europe or Asia.
    Maybe it'll be the end of the Oscars as a bonus.
  • Parody? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by makomk (752139) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:10AM (#13948657) Journal
    What about parody? Surely this would prevent anyone parodying said stories either? Copyright law protects the right to make parodies of copyrighted works, but I'm guessing the same doesn't apply to patents on storylines.
  • by julesh (229690) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:51AM (#13948876)
    (Just posted this on another site, but it should be here as well:)

    And here [uspto.gov]'s the patent application:

    The relevant parts:

    I claim:

    1. A process of relaying a story having a timeline and a unique plot involving characters, comprising: indicating a character's desire at a first time in said timeline for at least one of the following: a) to remain asleep or unconscious until a particular event occurs; and b) to forget or be substantially unable to recall substantially all events during the time period from said first time until a particular event occurs; indicating said character's substantial inability at a time after said occurrence of said particular event to recall substantially all events during the time period from said first time to said occurrence of said particular event; and indicating that during said time period said character was an active participant in a plurality of events.


    OK, so this claim covers all stories which involve characters that wish to sleep until something happens, apparently achieving this wish, and then discovering that they were awake but don't remember everything that happened in the meantime.

    Typical practice in patent applications is to put something very broad in the first claim in the hopes that it will be granted, but not to actually expect it to be enforceable because the chances are somebody has done something similar before. (If anybody can name stories that follow this structure, published before Nov 28, 2003, now is the time to tell the USPTO about it).

    2. A process of relaying a story as in claim 1, comprising: indicating that said particular event has occurred at a second time in said timeline at least one week after said first time; and indicating said character's substantial inability at a time after said second time to recall substantially all events during the time period from said first time to said second time.

    Claim 2 is the same story where the event waited for takes at least a week to occur, and everything that happened is forgotten about.

    3. A process of relaying a story as in claim 2, wherein said second time is at least one year after said first time.

    The same, except a year or more elapses.

    4. A process of relaying a story as in claim 1, wherein said particular event is at least one of: a passing of a particular amount of time; a notification of a decision; and a relief of a pain.

    5. A process of relaying a story as in claim 1, wherein said plurality of events comprises at least one of said character's wedding, a birth of a child of said character, and performance of said character's occupation for a substantial portion of said time period.


    Things a character might wait for and things that might happen during the wait.

    6. A process of relaying a story as in claim 1, further comprising indicating a belief held by at least three other characters that said character was conscious during said active participation in said plurality of events.

    Something that's likely to happen after the character 'wakes up'.

    7. A process of relaying a story as in claim 1, wherein each of said steps of indicating comprises indicating in a written form.

    8. A process of relaying a story as in claim 1, wherein each of said steps of indicating comprises indicating in a video form.


    Books, TV series and films are covered.

    9. A process of relaying a story as in claim 8, wherein said process is a process of displaying a motion picture having a timeline and a unique plot, comprising: displaying a video representation of an actor acting as said character; displaying a video representation of said actor indicating at said first time in said timeline a desire for said at l
  • I ran a search for "storyline" and found the claim for "Process of relaying a story having a unique plot [uspto.gov]."

    This guy seems serious. Now let's just hope the USPTO realizes the stupidity of allowing even an application for this sort of patent. Stories have been around since the beginnings of humanity. Patenting the ideas behind them would be like patenting speech itself.

    I still can't believe this. It's like something out of The Onion.

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