Stories and Patents

We live in a world awash with stories, all of which connect us and bind us together. We aren’t always aware of it but these stories really do influence our lives and change the way we see the world. What’s surprising about this fact is that most us don’t even notice the power these stories have, even when that power is obvious and staring us in the face. Take the idea of Greek myths, for instance. Now, the idea of Greek myths might seem a little obvious or old fashioned to some but Greek myths, and other types of myths, have survived for much longer than you might think. Really stop and think about it for a second. We are still making movies about characters like Hercules and Thor today even though these characters were created thousands of years ago. These characters have survived for millennia, through wars and famines and the falling of literally hundreds of societies. They’ve lived on and we’ve continued to reinvent them, to recreate and imagine them time and time again even though we live in a civilization that’s about as far as you can get from the ancient Greeks and Romans and Norse and Chinese as you can get. These stories survive on the hopes, dreams and fears that all of us have and what we wish we could do. We might wish we had Thor’s undying strength or the bravery of Hercules today but you know what’s kind of funny and poignant all at once? The reason they’ve survived for so long is that millions of us all over the world have wished for the exact same thing. There’s a reason those movies still pull in huge numbers and that we keep telling the stories of people who were kinder than everyone else, that were stronger or braver or scarier than everyone else. We need those stories to make sense of our own lives, to see how we want to be or what we wish we could be. Stories aren’t so simple as entertainment that kill some time. They are a vital part of who we are as human beings and how we understand and relate to other human beings on a very intimate level. But the control of these stories, and who owns these stories and ideas, isn’t exactly as simple as you might think. Let’s look at it a little more in depth and see what sort of things we can uncover.
Patent Protection and Patent Process
Intellectual property practices don’t sound like the most fun thing in the world but they are a vital link in understanding how these types of stories move along through the ages. In today’s world, patents are controlled by patent lawyers and the domestic patent process. These protect not only intellectual property practices and stories but inventions, ideas and other signs and symbols which can be owned by individual people. This system might seem reasonable today but it didn’t exist for most of history. For most of history, there were no such thing as intellectual property practices or any direct owner of a story, invention or piece of intellectual property. It was all basically up for grabs and people could pretty much claim anything as long as enough other people believed them. For example, think of all the tonic salesman and other con artists that are known to have plagued the American west throughout the nineteenth century. This seems like a strange example but those were people who had inventions, workable or not, that were trying to sell their idea, their concept, to the public. But, back then, the laws on those types of intellectual property practices were much looser and people could really say whatever they wanted. This might seem like a small example but go back any farther and it was pretty much like that throughout all of history. You might have had kings or emperors who would mediate such disputes but it wasn’t a common occurrence. And, for a long time, stories had no such owners at all. It was pretty much impossible for any one person to claim they owned a story. Now, our times are different and they will continue to change.

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