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This page was proposed for deletion; consensus was to keep. See Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/Originality. Postdlf 21:25, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Patent law[edit]

The article had the phrase following the line about U.S. patent law:

with the caveat that an invention may be original if a previous inventor had developed the same thing but not made it public, or had developed it in another country and not introduced it into the U.S.

I'm pretty sure this is not true. In the U.S., patents are granted on a "first to invent", not a "first to file", basis. --Fastfission 00:39, 7 November 2005 (UTC)

In Our Time[edit]

The BBC programme In Our Time presented by Melvyn Bragg has an episode which may be about this subject (if not moving this note to the appropriate talk page earns cookies). You can add it to "External links" by pasting {{In Our Time|Originality|p00548vy}}. Rich Farmbrough, 03:18, 16 September 2010 (UTC).

A Broader View[edit]

Originality is an event that happens to an individual, and then if they express or communicate elements of that event to another person or persons, that is an original work. Anything else is more or less derivative, but not entirely original. It's the event and the person that are important, though.

So if you have a whirlwind romance, take a vacation, or are whisked away by aliens in order to save their civilization, and you write a book about it, this is an original work, even if it resembles other works of fiction or non-fiction. (For that last one, I was thinking of "The Last Starfighter", but you get the idea.) The first two stories are not particularly new stories, but all the details are yours, and some of them simply cannot be conveyed in all their importance, vividness, and detail, in any communicated account. Different authors will emphasize different aspects of the experience, and the story told will be entirely different, due both to the nature of the events, and the nature of the persons who experience them. An original work of fiction is similar in that it may be inspired by yet another work of fiction, but the author creates an entirely novel set of experiences which make the original work exceptionally different from the work which inspired it. That's pretty much how it works for copyrighted works, and now we can discuss patented inventions.

For patented inventions and originality, we have the nearly perfect example of the invention of Xerography by Chester Carlson. Dr. Harold E. Clark's opinion in this excellent Wikipedia page makes it clear that Carlson's invention was considered wholly original at the time, and we can speculate in hindsight that this might well be the result of his difficult life and his rather unique education and interests. In other words, he was a more-or-less solitary individual with a very unique set of experiences, so much so that one of his partners, Otto Kornei, left the partnership and abandoned a claim to a 10% share of all future revenues, 10 years before Xerography became a viable product. There might have been practical and pressing reasons for him to do so, as you can't eat or pay rent with such a promise, but that doesn't explain abandoning the project entirely. So Carlson struggled on roughly five years, until yet another person, Dr. Harold Clark, saw the potential of his efforts.

This broader view is important in a few ways, though this is hard to express at the moment. Perhaps a good example is the difference between my little philosophical lecture here, and the rather derivative material on the page it refers to. :D I'll get back to you on this, Gentle Reader. -- TheLastWordSword (talk) 16:19, 8 January 2011 (UTC)