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Topic: Patenting a variation of an illusion
Message: Posted by: austinkayedm (Feb 11, 2019 02:17AM)
So I have a question about an illusion patent. So let's say I have a variation of a current illusion. I want to know what are the requirements for my idea to be a different illusion. So for example let's say the illusion requires 4 people to create the illusion of teleportation where one of them is never seen. And I have an idea of a design that would only require 3 people and the hidden person wouldn't be required. Would that be a different grand illusion? Could that be patented?
Message: Posted by: thomasR (Feb 11, 2019 12:48PM)
Can any illusion be patented?
Message: Posted by: Frank Simpson (Feb 12, 2019 05:42PM)
Securing a patent is a very expensive process. Your method would almost certainly not be able to be patented (utility patent), but your hardware could (design patent). That being said, someone could redesign hardware that might even use a very similar method, but with different dimensions, etc that would not be protected under a design patent.
Message: Posted by: jeffl (Feb 12, 2019 07:48PM)
I'm no patent attorney but my name appears on a number of released patents, one of which I got on my own initiative; I WANTED to just use one of those "Patent it Yourself" books but there's a number of stunts the patent office appears to use so they know the claims in the application were worded by a real attorney so ultimately I had to hire one, and the list of 7 claims that had all been rejected suddenly were perfectly acceptable! (If you ever figure out what those stunts are please let me know!) So anyway yes you could get a design patent, they aren't as hard to get but then again they don't protect as much, they're a "better fit" for some industrial design (maybe a bottle of shampoo?) that you're making in the hundreds of thousands, and it's generally mostly a series of static sketches. I believe you're probably thinking about a utility patent and like I say there's multiple parts but the real critical part to think about are the claims, the ones that you start out with describe a collection that's worded around "means to accomplish this" and "means to provide that". Unfortunately "means" kind of dissolves the difference between 3 and 4 people, maybe what you would want to focus on some mechanism that you could identify as replacing the other person, and how it's constructed and what it does. Yes that's not "the whole illusion" but if you can describe how it makes possible the rest of the effect then MAYBE you could write some trial claims and see how they seem to go. Please note I'm not TOTALLY devaluing those "self-patent" books, in fact it wouldn't be a bad idea to take one out of your local library right now. Now patent attorneys can be expensive BUT if you do some trial claims and some patent office searches and you STILL think you've got something, then if you want to pay for an attorney's time you might almost get your money's worth. I don't want to be too optimistic (and of course patents tend to wind up disclosing things that magicians frequently don't really want to be public) but if you want to put in some time and see what happens that's about how I think you might want to proceed, OK?
Message: Posted by: top_illusionist (Feb 12, 2019 07:53PM)
In this day and age, its best to sell your idea to the top industry working professionals. Start there and move on. However, if you're looking for an award and recognition, then by all means drop the money into a patent.
Message: Posted by: jeffl (Feb 12, 2019 08:36PM)
I don't want this taken the wrong way (I believe it's pretty obvious why I think this way) but I think I'm like a lot of people in that the concern I would have would be that some Chinese manufacturer could steal your IP in order to build and sell the apparatus, and if THAT'S your concern not only am I not well aware of the intricacies of IP law in that country, but I don't think on the whole that country is set up very well to help you keep YOUR IP protected!
Message: Posted by: FrankFindley (Feb 12, 2019 10:39PM)
To OP, I am an inventor with a patent (non-magic related) and have written three other patent filings for others, two of which resulted in patent grants (the third was voluntarily withdrawn).

For an invention to be patentable it has to be (1) useful, (2) novel, and (3) non-obvious. This is compared to current technology in use, that is "the state of the art".

In your example it seems it would be be fairly easy to demonstrate useful (requiring fewer assistants is clearly an advantage) and novel (demonstrably different in application). But you don't list any information where one could assess if it is a non-obvious improvement.

All this said, you should understand with a patent you will be disclosing to the world how the effect is done. Anyone will be able to look it up. And the only real protection you gain is the ability to sue to protect others from manufacturing it without a license. But you must have the resources (lots of money for lawsuits) to activate that protection. And even then it will likely not deter anyone from countries with low IP respect from knocking it off.

That is why most magicians use trade secrets with contracts (primarily non-disclosure agreements) coupled with an industry code of ethics to protect ideas. With trade secrets you do the exact opposite of patents, you keep the method from public disclosure. However, trade secrets don't stop others from discovering and using the same thing you did (though the magician ethic is meant to help stop that). It just stop others you work with (assistants, stage hands, builders, etc) from taking it.
Message: Posted by: austinkayedm (Feb 14, 2019 11:39PM)
I want to thank everyone who answered with such an amazing deteail. There are so many valuable comments here! I may in fact continue using my idea without anyone knowing about it and not patenting it at all :). now I have a clear idea of what pantenting is like, its risks and real value.

Thanks everyone ;)
Message: Posted by: Perero (Mar 23, 2019 05:45AM)
In sweden couple of years ago the cost for a national patent was around 50.000 SEK and a design patent half (around 25.000). I have seen some patents for illusion apparatus or similar as they often call the patent.
The company I worked for at the moment patentet a electronic solution for saving heat, and like magic apparatus I believe that if the method is completely different from others it can be patented, but is the method the same but the design completely different (maybe with a twist) it should be design patented.
But with magical illusions its only the design that reveals what kind of illusions it is, so therefore should all illusion patents only be design patents or?
Message: Posted by: FrankFindley (Mar 23, 2019 08:37AM)
[quote]On Mar 23, 2019, Perero wrote:
In sweden couple of years ago the cost for a national patent was around 50.000 SEK and a design patent half (around 25.000). I have seen some patents for illusion apparatus or similar as they often call the patent.
The company I worked for at the moment patentet a electronic solution for saving heat, and like magic apparatus I believe that if the method is completely different from others it can be patented, but is the method the same but the design completely different (maybe with a twist) it should be design patented.
But with magical illusions its only the design that reveals what kind of illusions it is, so therefore should all illusion patents only be design patents or? [/quote]

In the US a design patent only protects the appearance of an in invention while a utility patent protects the function. For magic it is usually the method one would want to protect so it would be a utility patent that would be pursued. But there are some instances where a design patent could be sought to protect a routine.

For example, I have thought about patenting a different type of costume arrangement for the Farmer and Witch illusion which provides a more updated story. The method is the same so wouldnt qualify for utility patent but the appearance is different so would qualify for a design patent. Another example where a design patent could be employed would be in certain replications, for example unique styles of feather arraingements in feather flowers. Different styles of feather flowers work functionally the same but some styles definitely look better than others! This is the type of situation a design patent is meant to address.

In fact, a design patent can't have a functional purpose. So situations where the design plays a role in functioning (for example tricks based on optical illusions) would need to be filed as utility not design patents.
Message: Posted by: danaruns (Mar 24, 2019 09:43PM)
Why would you want to patent an illusion. A patent is by definition public. The method must be published and publicly available. Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?
Message: Posted by: FrankFindley (Mar 24, 2019 10:23PM)
[quote]On Mar 24, 2019, danaruns wrote:
Why would you want to patent an illusion. A patent is by definition public. The method must be published and publicly available. Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? [/quote]

If steps are taken to enforce it, it prevents others from manufacturing and selling your magic invention without license. Right now illusion builders go through great lengths to convince magicians that it is illegal to knock off their creations. Without a patent this is incorrect. It may not be ethical, but it is certainly legal.


Per my example above, a design patent could be written without exposing the method. But you are right, a utility patent would result in the method being available for anyone to look up. That is why the trade secret legal approach is more often employed than a patent (see above for how that works). But there most certainly are patented illusions. One I found most interesting was the simple snapper trick. It is patent #7,377,855.

And, of course, there is obviously no harm in patenting magic accessories like electronic pyrotechnic devices. For example, who cares if a method for setting off flash paper is revealed? So patents make sense in such cases.