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DJ Trix
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I have invented an effect and I want to patent it so no one can steal my idea, even though I am not marketing it.

Can someone please tell me how I go about this?

thanks a bunch,

dj
Andy Leviss
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Odds are you can't; most magic tricks aren't patentable. Those that are then fall into the trap of whether you can afford a patent or not. The patent process is a very lengthy and expensive one that you need to have done through a lawyer specializing in patent law.

Contrary to what some folks may tell you, copyright does nothing to protect a magic effect; if anything would, it would be a patent, but see the above.

Contrary to what some folks may tell you, writing up a description of your effect and sealing it in an envelope addressed to yourself so that when you mail it the postmark will act as proof of the date of creation offers you no realistic protection.

Unfortunately, for most of magic, it's an ethical and not a legal issue.
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rcad
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Andy is right. You cannot either patent an effect or copyright it. What technically becomes automatically copyrighted is the description of the effect. In other words, nobody can use your texts and pictures as is and distribute them in any way. Anybody can however rewrite it, expand on it, etc in their own words and they are not breaking the law. If your effect required some kind of manufacturing and you have, let's say, molds for a gimmick, you are again protected from someone who would take your gimmick and create a new mold from it. On the other hand, if someone were to create a new mold for it, their is nothing you can do.

Sending yourself a copy of your texts, pictures and so on by mail will prove, as someone else mentioned, that you were the author on the date it was shipped. If someone published your text without your permission for example, you'd be able to prove in court that this text was yours on that date. The one who published your work won't be able to prove he was the author since he'd have to have a self-mailed copy of the work on a previous date.

Your work is legaly protected the minute you write it BUT... If someone steals your work, you have to bring that person to court and PROVE that you are the rightful owner of that copyright. Legal actions are very long and expensive to carry and even if you win, there are many ways the other party can avoid paying you damages and interests. He could simply file for bankruptcy and you are screwed...

Copyright laws are international but again, let's be realistic. Let's say you come from the US and someone reprints your text or a translation of it in another country... Sure, you can try to go to court with that but do you really think that you'll be able to enforce a payment from the other party even if you won?

And are all these legal costs worth the settlement you could get? That I don't know but it would be a big investment of time and money to find out...

I don't want to rain on your parade or sound sour or anything but being a professional writer has taught me a lot about intellectual property. On a more positive note though, if you manage to market your idea or product and massively distribute it, either yourself or with the help of someone who has experience in marketing that kind of product, it will become associated with your name or the manufacturer's name. Chances are that copies won't be as well marketed or as mass produced and by that time, hopefully, you will have sold this trick to most magicians who who would have shown a strong interest in it. Marketing, publicity, etc are unfortunately more effective then laws sometimes.

Hope this helps none the less...

Good luck!

Richard
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." Albert Einstein
Peter Loughran
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Again I have to bring up the fact that mailing anything to yourself in a so called sealed envelope as proof that you have thought of something first is a MYTH. For example I could go out today and mail myself an empty unsealed envelope. I know I tried it. Then after I receive it again, I could place whatever I want into that envelope in the future...This will not hold up in a court of law...sorry.

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Steve Friedberg
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A better way of proving an idea was yours on any given date is to have a notary public sign off on it. But to echo the thoughts of several above...unless you're willing to spend a lot of time and money on protecting your intellectual property, it's just not worth the effort. Companies that patent IP have hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars at stake; do you?
Cheers,
Steve

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Andy Leviss
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This is such a commonly held falsity that I think Peter's post bears repeating. It is the very rare circumstance under which you would not be laughed out of court trying to prove a date of creation based on a postmark.

Quote:
On 2003-07-26 05:58, Peter Loughran wrote:
Again I have to bring up the fact that mailing anything to yourself in a so called sealed envelope as proof that you have thought of something first is a MYTH. For example I could go out today and mail myself an empty unsealed envelope. I know I tried it. Then after I receive it again, I could place whatever I want into that envelope in the future...This will not hold up in a court of law...sorry.

P.
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Peter Loughran
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Andy: Smile buddy.

You know a funny story: I had a close friend who was in the music biz, and he recorded a hip hop album (that was actually pretty good if you are into this type of music).

He recorded the album privately and then sent himself a copy of the lyric sheets and a copy of the CD. I urged him to get a proper copyright and explained to him the steps needed to do so. I even offered to loan him the capital to do so. He declined and still believed that his way was more than legal.

He hosted a CD release party and invited some recording companies etc. to attend. He handed out a ton of CDs. No one picked up him up for a contract, but his music did hit the market, unfortunately it wasn't him singing the songs...and guess what when he approached a lawyer with his postmarked package, he was laughed at! Case closed.

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Marshall Thornside
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Official copyrighting and patenting are worth the effort if you are going to put a lot of time and effort in it.
ASCAP always states when you are registering music that it isn't the same thing as copyrighting music, and it is not a replacement. When you have the official document it is yours and its best to be safe then sorry.
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rcad
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Peter,

You may be right since I never myself went to court myself for a copyright issue. But regarding your friend's story, the difference may lie in the fact that music and writing copyrights are handled differently. Here in Canada, there are specific ways to register a piece of music which do not apply to writing. If I had created a music CD, I wouldn't send myself a copy by mail thinking it would be protected. I'd get the information at the source and follow the instructions.

As far as the part of the lawyer laughing at him is concerned, even if it was only a figure of speech, it just proves his incompetence. There are only very few lawyers who have specialized in copyright law. It is a complicated and not very well understood part of the law, even by lawyers. I had the pleasure of talking over the phone with a copyright specialized lawyer in the past. I got the information for free because he was also a university teacher and I contacted him as such. The bottom line is: sending yourself a copy of your writing is not perfect, but we do not live in a perfect world either and at least in Canada, such an element of proof is considered reasonable.

Again, legaly, the minute you write something original, you own a copyright over it. The problem is to prove the "date of creation" in court.

There is a service availlable on the Net at http://www.copyrightdepot.com/index.html. I have never used it but it looks like a very good and not so expensive alternative. I am presently writing a novel and will probably use this service in the future myself.

Richard
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." Albert Einstein
Peter Loughran
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rcad,

As for the music thing I was merely going to direct him to someone more knowledgable about securing his music, I myself admit I didn't know the details, just some of the steps that he needed to do, where to go, and who to talk to, etc.

However through many years of experience I was intellegent enough to know that sending anything to yourself in the mail is a MYTH.

I will say it again and again if I have to, that is actually the bottom line. Don't fool yourself by thinking anything different.

Say what you will, and If someone wants to follow your advice than I will not be stopping them, but I personally DO NOT reccommend such actions in securing your ideas through the post office, that is all I am saying, in case you missed my one and only point.

P.

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rcad
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Peter,

I hope I haven't offended you in any way. As I said, you may be right since I haven't had the personal experience myself...

But apart from consulting a notary which could become kind of pricey after a while if you are writing a lot of stuff, do you have a suggestion as to how one could get a proof of copyright cheaply?

Because this is the bottom line: money. You want to protect your creations so that if there is money to be made, you'll get a piece of the cake. But on the other hand, if you have to invest a lot of money on notary fees in case someone wants to steal your work while you may not have made any money with it yet and may never will, what's the point?

I assure you I understand your point. But if one doesn't have the money to go through this process, isn't mailling it to yourself better than nothing?
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." Albert Einstein
ddyment
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Copyrights are easy. The most effective way to establish the date of copyright (to be used later in a court of law) is to simply register the copyright with the Copyright Office. In the U.S., this costs a mere $30, and no lawyer or third-party "service company" is required. You can find out pretty much everything you might need to know about (U.S.) copyrights by merely visiting the Copyright Office Website.

... Doug
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Peter Loughran
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Rcad, no mailing anything to yourself is not better than nothing it is simply a waste of time.

And no, you did not offend me, I have been trying to do what I can to help others out by letting them know that the mailing thing is bogus, but the rumors keep spreading, that's all. I simply thought you misunderstood my point. Sorry if I confused the situation, I did't mean to, I was trying to keep my point a simple as possible. I hope there are no hard feelings.

Anyway to answer your question:

I get my copyrights done through my lawyer for as cheap as $250.00 Cdn. To me that isn't expensive at all and it is just part of the R&D costs that goes into any of my ideas. But Doug seems to have the best and most affordable solution and going through the website he mentions above.

Personally I just feel better after I sign the actual documents myself.

Best,

P.
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ddyment
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I should add that patents (which are rarely appropriate for magical inventions in any case) are another story entirely. Although in theory it's possible to manage one of these without a lawyer, in practise it's a waste of time: you need a good patent lawyer in order for a patent to be of any value if challenged. This, unfortunately, will turn out to be quite expensive, one of the reasons it's rarely done.

... Doug
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Peter Loughran
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The other downfall to patents with a magical effect is that any public person may actually look up the patent and see the workings/plans/drawings and such of the prop/device/illusion or what have you.

P.
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rcad
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Peter,

There are no hard feelings whatsoever Smile

As a matter of fact, I think this thread has been very interesting. The problem with forums and chatting is the lack of "tone of voice" which deprives the reader of much information. And as much as I like debating, I wouldn't want to unwillingly offend anyone in the process... I hope we will debate again in the future and maybe this time, we'll have the same point of view, hehe!

Richard Smile
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Peter Loughran
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Rcad,

Well said and agreed! Smile

P. Smile
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Carron
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One step you could take is go to your local bank where there is an electronic date display on the wall.

Take a photo of yourself holding your publication or trick also in the shot. This method was originally used by a clairvoiant painter who, after doing a painting would go to the bank and do this holding his painting.

Many of his paintings have occured, for example the disaster on Sep 11 was predicted so was the french concorde disaster.
Hope this method helps!
Andy Leviss
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I want to add on a bit of an explanation as to why Peter and I, among others, are so adamant that mailing yourself a copy is a complete and utter waste of time and money.

Of all fields of interest that should have an understanding of why this is a silly idea, magicians should be the top of the list. Think about it--headline predictions. How many different ways have been devised to load something into a pre-postmarked envelope secretly well after the fact; even an envelope that has been in somebody else's possession the entire time.

As I've said before, I think even elsewhere in this forum, it would be an easy thing for me to send myself an empty envelope (or, even better, one with a thick stack of blank paper) today and, five years from now, type up a copy of the newest bestselling book and seal it in my old envelope. If that postmarked envelope were valid proof in a court, I'd then be able to sue that author and claim he stole my book.

Like I said, a judge would simply laugh at you given the chance, but, thankfully, most lawyers would laugh at you first before you even got the chance to amuse the judge.

Tom's suggestion is equally useless. We live in a world where elementary school age children can create nearly indetectable fake photos in less than five minutes, especially with something as simple as changing the time on a clock or electronic calendar. Not to mention that you could just make arrangements to have the calendar/clock changed to suit your needs.

If you want the protection, do it the real way, or don't do it at all. Anything else is a waste of time, money, and effort for nothing.
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Adam Grace
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Getting copyrights through the US government takes a long time. The last thing I copyrighted took almost 1 year to get my paperwork back. Now, I know that you are covered from the day you send in the paperwork; however, almost everyday, during that wait, I wondered, "Did they even get my paperwork?"

I have found a better way. The writers guild offers a registration process that insures protection on your ideas. It's $25 and you instantly get paperwork for your files. You can give them any writing, pictures, typed documents... just about anything.
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