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Movie Magic – Patented Hollywood

The magic of movies is the escapism they can provide, transporting the viewer to different worlds that may seem impossible to comprehend existing outside of the silver screen.
As technology advances, concepts that were once viewed as science fiction are slowly becoming commonplace. The lines between fantasy and reality have become blurred, and although some ideas may never be possible to implement, we can look to intellectual property in hopes to find how close we can get to living out some of our cinematic fantasies.

Intellectual Property in Hollywood

Intellectual Property and the movie industry have a long history, driving innovation with its need for special effects and practical stunts. This relationship goes all the way back to the dawn of the major movie studios, contributing to them finding their home within Hollywood.

During the 1890’s the majority of US patents relating to film making were owned by Thomas Edison. He negotiated a licensing agreement with major filmmakers of the time, creating the Motion Picture Patents Company, and thus establishing a monopoly on all areas of the filmmaking process. These regulations lead to a large section of independent filmmakers choosing to move their operations to Hollywood; a destination chosen due to its distance from Edison’s New Jersey base, where it would be difficult for the MPPC to enforce its patents by prosecuting for infringement.

Fig.1, G03B31/02 Projectors in which sound track is on moving film

In A Galaxy Not That Far Away
Star Wars is one of the most iconic franchises in cinematic history, with its characters and lore becoming common knowledge integrated in our daily lives. Arguably the most universally identifiable piece of the Star Wars universe is the lightsabre. There are various light up swords that mimic the aesthetic of a light sabre, but a recent patent application by Disney, who own the rights to Star Wars itself, may be the closest we can get to replicating a true lightsabre experience. The patent (US2018326317A1) discloses a retractable sword with an illuminated blade for “providing an energy sword effect”. This effect operates by utilising a flexible light source strip attached to a blade end cap. The blade may be provided on a spool and extended or retracted by a motor in the hilt, creating a realistic effect of a lightsabre powering on/off.

But Your Kids Are Gonna Love It
Back to The Future represents another universally recognisable movie franchise, which contains predictions of numerous technological advances that were claimed to be achieved by 2015. The concept of time travel itself may be some way off still, however those looking to recreate Marty’s hoverboard chase from Back to The Future 2 could be in luck. There are various methods that could be employed to generate the lift to propel the board, such as high-pressured water (US2015360755A1) or providing a source of direct air pressure (US2005016783A1). However, the patent that most closely appears to replicate the look and intended use of that of the film appears to be US2015303768A1, by Akers Pakesilaibai Company. This application proposes an electromagnetic levitation vehicle which utilises magnetic fields to induce eddy currents for generating the desired lift and thrust.

Muggles Get In On The Act
The final of our three innovations is also the final of the three Deathly Hallows; the invisibility cloak. The concept of an invisibility cloak has been utilised in plenty of film and literary works over the years, and although the Wizarding World has their own patent office, termed the “Ludicrous Patents Officed” in the Ministry of Magic, we can find this technology available a little closer to home. Canadian manufacturer Hyperstealth Corp have developed a light bending material known as “Quantum Stealth”, which can be utilised as a camouflaging agent. The material (US2021172709A1) comprises a lens sheet assembly which could bend light waves around an object by refraction or reflection, thus disguising it from an observer.

As illustrated by the above identified patent applications, what was once deemed pure fantasy is slowly becoming reality. And this is just a glimpse into what is possible with current technology, as we continue to push further into new fields it is possible one day movies such as Back to The Future 2 will need to be reclassified from science fiction to historical drama.

They say that life imitates art, and that certainly seems to be true of innovation.

Article by Daniel Di Francesco, an IP Manager at Patent Seekers. He is an expert in undertaking FTO, Patentability and Invalidity searches, covering all types of subject matter with specialism in the chemical field.

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