That’s right! I’m officially “patent pending.” Coming soon to a patent office near you:
“Method and Apparatus for Creating a Work of Fiction with the Aid of a Computing Device”
That’s the name my patent attorney came up with. Please, before you start squawking about ridiculous software patents, let me explain. I’m not a fan of software patents, either. (Or at least: I wasn’t, before this experience.)
I’ve been concerned for a while now about the stifling effects of software and business method patents on innovation. I’ve mentioned here from time to time my desire to write fiction, but this ambition has often been hindered by legal fear. What if I unknowingly infringed on someone’s intellectual property with my methods for creating that fiction? Particularly since I intended to use a computer for said creation, and computers are quite technical and almost magical in their ability to enable new forms of innovation and patentable processes. Sure, there’s no question that if you sat down at an old-fashioned typewriter and banged out your manuscript, you’d be fine. But what if you use a computer? It just seemed too risky.
But then I started to think about “defensive” patents. I specifically considered things I might patent in relation to fiction writing. It occurred to me that software can help with many fiction writing tasks. To name a few: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and revising. Surely it would be a novel idea to combine all these tasks into one comprehensive patent for the process of creating a fictional work on a computer. I spent many long, hungry minutes developing my idea into a patentable invention. I would put the “mutual” into MAD, and be helpless no longer! I could create with wild abandon, free from fear!
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the USPTO. As I met with a patent attorney and worked through the filing process, I began to understand that I was adding real value to the field of fiction writing. I no longer looked at this as simply a defensive tactic. I decided I would use my patent in two ways:
- Against anyone with money.
You see, even with my explicit goal of neutralizing patents in the field of fiction writing, I ended up discovering their power to promote innovation. If you use a computer for your storytelling, you’re benefiting from this work I did. And I should warn you: My patent attorney is very good. If you so much as save your work in Notepad, you are infringing this patent! But there’s nothing to be afraid of. This is a “win-win” situation. It’s only fair that I earn a fee for your use of my invention. (I have to admit it makes me a little angry to think of all the people who have been — unknowingly, maybe, but still — ripping me off for days now, since last week’s official filing. Please, people, show some respect for intellectual property.)
I’m currently looking for a patent holding firm with an interest in helping me get a non-provisional patent, or maybe in buying the thing outright. One of my other discoveries in this process has been that it would be easier to make a million dollars selling the patent rather than actually writing a story.
Am I concerned about possible negative side-effects on the art of fiction writing? Absolutely not, for several reasons:
- This is about innovation. This will help writers create more and better fiction. The cross-licensing opportunities alone more than make up for any dampening effect.
- Writers are free to use a typewriter and paper for their work. (Although now I find it doesn’t seem right that people could be out there creating things without paying some kind of fee.)
- Even if the amount of fiction produced went down, drastically, is that a bad thing? There’s so much fiction out there already that we’re never going to be able to read it all.
- I’ve got mine and it’s not my problem.
Now, I have to get back to work on my next project. It’s another patent, tentatively entitled:
“Method and Apparatus for Concise, Rapid Depiction of Narrative Events in Online Moving Pictures”
In short, I’m bringing the innovation of the “montage” into the Internet Age!