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USPTO Issues Provisional Storyline Patent 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 Issues Provisional Storyline Patent

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  • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:33AM (#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 GaryPatterson ( 852699 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:38AM (#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.
  • Palm Sunday. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:41AM (#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.
  • by Mr. Roadkill ( 731328 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @12:55AM (#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!

  • by Joel from Sydney ( 828208 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @01:15AM (#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.
  • Re:Palm Sunday. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Joel from Sydney ( 828208 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @01:19AM (#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.
  • by Radrik ( 79810 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @01:32AM (#13948061)
    Exactly. A story has no utility. Thank God that AC knows what is going on. Listen: Just because the patent application has been published doesn't mean that the patent has been granted. They're working on a 2 1/2 year backlog, and they publish applications to stop people from applying for things over and over again.

    max born, no one has been able to come up with an example of prior art for the Amazon one-click patent. Honestly, if that's not a case of a decent software patent, what is?
  • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:4, Interesting)

    by happyemoticon ( 543015 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @01:57AM (#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.

  • by cheesedog ( 603990 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @02:24AM (#13948264)
    Oh, you might be surprised what kind of triviality the patent office grants -- see this poster's list [].

    And, sadly, it looks like this guy is serious. Looks like he's even set up a practice [] to promote helping others get storyline patents.

  • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RootsLINUX ( 854452 ) <> on Friday November 04, 2005 @03:22AM (#13948418) Homepage
    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. >_>
  • Re:Marines (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @03:29AM (#13948432) Homepage Journal
    My brother is a Marine, and quite frankly, I'm offended that this loser would use the imagery of one of their proudest moments. He's blatantly trying to trade on the strong patriotitic feelings that image stirs, and the attempted imagery would be laughable if it weren't so perverse. At Iwo Jima, the probabilities were stacked against the Marines (often the case with Marines) but they took the island by the strength of their tenacity. There's a reason their enemies gave them the nickname "Devil Dogs." If this moron is trying to equate himself to them (and despite the location, I think that's exactly what he's doing), saying he'll tenaciously fight until he secures what he believes to be his rights, it's one of the sickest things I've seen in my life. If he truly wanted to suggest his location, he could have used several buildings more instantly identifiable with Washington, D.C. without defecating on the memory of Mt. Suribachi.

    Second, yes this moron is a lawyer, but he's a patent lawyer, which means he has a technical degree. He got it from MIT (and yes, I still think he's a moron). I'm in law school, and I am quite comfortable in vi. I use vi to write my case briefs in LaTeX. If he doesn't know how to use vi himself, he ought to be smart enough to hire someone who does. There's no reason to have a bad webpage.

  • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LParks ( 927321 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @04:35AM (#13948576)
    Simple solution if they start to ban books. One just needs to get a patent that would make the Bible infringe on it, similar to the way that companies have retro-patented things like the double-click. Then this whole book patent idea will be taken a lot more seriously by members of the government and patent office.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:09AM (#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 []:

    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.

  • Parody? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by makomk ( 752139 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @05:10AM (#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.
  • Re:USPTO Broken (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jonner ( 189691 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:04AM (#13948769)
    By referring to the "the US' banned books list," you imply that the Federal government has a master list of books that are disallowed in the the United States. However, it's really a list of books that have been removed in very specific, local contexts, usually school libraries. If the US patents on storylines were enforced, it would be much more repressive than any current banning.
  • Re:Palm Sunday. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vengeance ( 46019 ) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:32AM (#13948948)
    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.
  • But is this Knight guy actually serious about this? Is this all just satire to show that the USPTO is incompetant?

    The site is so absurb that it almost does count as some kind of anti-patent comic sketch.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller