Andrew Knight, J.D., a novelist, inventor, and Registered Patent Agent, published the world's first patent-pending novel, dubbed The Mobius Strip, a book that Knight claims contains an intricate plot that may be patentable under current U.S. patent law. The novel is protected under copyright law but Knight asserts that without patent protection, the underlying storyline may be copied freely by anyone.
Knight, a graduate of MIT and Georgetown Law, was in 2003 the first person to apply for utility patent protection on a fictional storyline. Last month, after publishing the applications, the Patent Office issued final rejections in all four cases, requiring Knight to either abandon his applications or else appeal these decisions.
Before a patent will issue, the invention must first be deemed the kind of subject matter Congress intended to protect. "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, a patentable invention must not be "obvious," or impermissibly similar to previous inventions. "Non-obviousness probably presents the biggest challenge to patentability," said Charles Berman, Co-Chair of the Patent Prosecution Practice at Greenberg Traurig LLP.
Others assert that whether or not storylines are found to be patentable, there is a need among authors for robust protection of fictional storylines. Leon Arden, author of One Fine Day, sued Columbia Pictures in 1995 for copyright infringement, asserting that the writers of Groundhog Day plagiarized his plot. The suit was tossed out by a U.S. District Judge on the basis that storylines are not copyrightable. According to Arden, storyline theft "can gut a writer, stealing from him the rewards of his best work, even derailing his career."
The Mobius Strip, published under Knight Publications, tells the story of a man caught up in a world of incessant productivity and consumption. Perpetually seeking the approval of others through possessions, status and achievements, he finally comes to realize that lasting contentment only accompanies self-satisfaction. "If a man isn't happy with who he is or what he has, he won't be happy with more," Knight stated of his novel's theme, but did not elaborate on the plot elements that he considers potentially patentable.
As for the existing four storyline patent test cases, Knight stated that he intends to appeal the Patent Office's recent decisions. "Final rejection is standard protocol in test cases that push the boundaries of patent law," Knight said. "I fully expected it. The issue will ultimately be decided by the Federal Circuit."
Author's website: http://www.plotpatents.com/.