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1st Story Line Patent Published
Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 06:32 PM EST

It reads like an Onion parody, but it is real. Here's the USPTO published application:
Process of relaying a story having a unique plot


A process of relaying a story having a timeline and a unique plot involving characters comprises: indicating a character's desire at a first time in the 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 the first time until a particular event occurs; indicating the character's substantial inability at a time after the occurrence of the particular event to recall substantially all events during the time period from the first time to the occurrence of the particular event; and indicating that during the time period the character was an active participant in a plurality of events.

I have to say. They have at last invented a way to destroy all cultural development forevermore. That's an achievement of a sort.

Remember, a published patent means it hasn't issued yet. But if you wish to throw up, read about the dreams being dreamed. They are willing to destroy the world's culture for $67,200. Here's Knight and Associates' legal analysis, which they are probably proud of. To me, it's like figuring out how to destroy the planet and all human life on it. What is your responsibility? To implement it, to even tell anyone what you cleverly invented? I know. Knight and Associates would advise patenting it first.

Andrew Knight's bio tells us that Knight is "the inventor of Storyline Patents." Please, Mr. Knight, patent that invention right away, so no one else can do it. And will you please think more deeply about what you say in your Acknowledgements section on that page?

New innovations are not created in a vacuum. Many people, through their friendship, encouragement, and instruction, have made possible Mr. Knight’s conception of Storyline Patents and his ability to draft and prosecute patent applications to their fruition . . .

Deep thoughts, please, Andrew. Extrapolate. What do we do when there are no more plots to invent? Hmm. I should write a movie plot about it. A world with no more culture. A vacuum. The world in a Dark Age, where culture is not allowed to the common people, and those who dare to write plots based on earlier writers' works or who read illegal books are burned at the stake. Wait a sec. Didn't mankind do something that already? Uh oh.

Andrew's thought patterns go like this, from the application:

[0011] The fact that each particular expression (e.g., a movie) of a broad artistic invention (e.g., an original plot) is subject to copyright protection is not unique to artistic inventions. For example, the software code on a patented software-containing disk may be copyrighted. The defining criterion separating the subject matter of patents from copyrights is not whether the subject matter is related to art--see the amusing counterexample of U.S. Pat. No. 6,213,778 to Cohen. Rather, the defining criterion is whether the subject matter is a broad concept practically applied or used (patent), or a particular instance, embodiment, expression, or performance of the broad concept (copyright).

[0012] There is little fear that artistic creation will be halted due to the enforcement of patent protection newly applied to artistic inventions. A love song composer may indefinitely continue writing love songs without worry of infringing any patent, because the concept of writing songs about love is old and not patentable. Statute clearly requires an invention to be new and nonobvious to receive patent coverage. Thus, even if the broad concept or invention of singing about love were statutory subject matter under .sctn.101, it is as old as civilization, and would not survive an attack under .sctn..sctn.102-103. In fact, most artistic concepts today are very old--which is precisely the problem that must be remedied by patent protection for artistic inventions. Unless patents on artistic inventions are upheld and enforceable, the great artistic minds of the day will be compelled to continue composing predictable love songs for pop stars and slightly altered dialogues for carbon copied movie plots.

[0013] There is currently little motivation for artistic inventors to innovate new plots, themes, and methods of expression. The value of an innovator's copyright, if he in fact embodies his invention in a particular expression (such as a novel or movie) is far less than the value of the invention itself, because the invention umbrellas every possible embodiment. Further, and perhaps more importantly, the value of his copyright depends on his ability as a performer, not as an inventor. An artistic inventor who invents a fantastically original and compelling plot may not be a particularly skilled writer. He may, for example, have a very limited vocabulary and a poor understanding of grammar. Any book he creates will be avoided by any potential buyer who reads the first paragraph, such that the copyright value of his extremely valuable invention is nil. Any Hollywood producer who sees through the book's garbled sentence structure to the excellent and creative plot beneath the surface may steal the only value the book contained: its inventive plot. The producer may then moderately alter the expression of the plot in a subsequent movie--while keeping the plot's essence fully intact--and obtain unearned financial benefit from the inventor's unrewarded hard work and innovation. If there is any evil that the United States patent system ought to prevent, it is this.

[0014] Said another way: the value of a singer's performance or a dancer's performance or a writer's performance or an artist's performance is in the performance, while the value of an inventor's invention is in the invention, not a single instance, embodiment, expression, or performance of the invention. The value of a performance is protected by copyright; the value of an invention is not. An artistic innovator is given but two choices absent patent protection: to sacrificially innovate for the unearned benefit of thieves, or to not innovate. Both options are morally and practically repulsive.

[0015] A patent system that sanctions and defends patents on artistic inventions, such as new and nonobvious plots, will spur an array of never-seen-before, never-experienced-before, intellectually inspiring forms of entertainment. A patent system that lethargically clings to an as-of-yet unarticulated rule that artistic inventions are not patentable subject matter because they are not closely enough related to a mechanical gear or an electronic integrated circuit will guarantee our nation the same repertoire of mind numbing movies and dime-a-dozen boy bands.

I hope he's trying to prove that software patents should never be issued, and that the US patent system needs to be reformed, but I don't think so. I have written to ask him pointblank, and I'll let you know his response.

Update: Mr. Knight says he is absolutely serious and that my "analysis" sounds like a whiny soap opera actress. He suggests reading the legal analysis. I have. I didn't say it wasn't clever. I say in my view it's morally and culturally wrong.

Here's the press release:


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.

For an information packet, including a copy of the JPTOS article, contact Andrew Knight or visit

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