Saturday, November 05, 2005

Patenting Storylines

Authors beware: the US Patent Office has just published the first "patent application to claim a fictional storyline" by an Andrew Knight, and will be publishing another two of his patented storylines in the coming weeks. Knight originally filed his claims 18 months ago.

Note we're not talking about an actual written novel, or screenplay, or any form in which the storyline has been fully dramatised, presented, or realised in any shape. The patent covers the idea for the story itself.

Dubbed "The Zombie Stare", Knight's first patented storyline goes something like this: high school guy prays to remain unconscious until he receives his MIT admissions letter, wakes up 30 years later because the letter's been lost in the mail, but discovers that as far as everybody else could see, he was still living life as normal. He sets out to regain his last 30 years of lost life experience.

Now you know. Come up with any plotline even vaguely similar, in prose, film, comic, music video clip, bank commercial... etc, and you will be sued by Knight for infringing on his patent.

Or, you could let Knight help you patent your story ideas. Because as everyone knows, it's not the published book or movie that counts, it's not what you do with the story idea that matters in the slightest - why, you could hire any hack to flesh out the necessary details.

No. The only things that matter are the ideas themselves. They're oh so rare and unique, aren't they. Why haven't they been protected by copyright before? Hmm...

* Farm boy dreams of adventure, goes on quest to rescue a princess and defeat an evil empire.

* Young girl somehow crosses over into a bizarre otherworld, meets strange characters, overcomes obstacles by her wit and the help of her companions, and returns home.

* Lonely little boy finds stray creature who becomes his best friend and they have unbelievable adventures together. Creature is lost/hurt/killed. Boy is heartbroken. Creature is somehow restored to boy. Cue happy ending.

* Group of college kids find themselves at abandoned site (with innocent childhood connotations - farmhouse, campsite, amusement park...) Unbeknownst to them, location comes with resident serial killer with inventive modus operandi.

* Small-time loser witnesses murder and goes into hiding in the most outrageous disguise possible to escape discovery, and must then play out the role they are disguised as. Ironically, it is as their alter-ego that they finally achieve success.

Et cetera.

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