You recall the Steam Train Illusion, right? Mr. SawChuck performed it on national television a few years back. It was pretty cool and perhaps that is why it is featured in The Illusionists’ act.
Mr. SawChuck told Vegas News, “You will also notice the train is an exact copy of MY steam train illusion I designed and invented in 2010 for America’s Got Talent Semi-Finals being seen by more than 22 million viewers.”
We have no information that would cause us to doubt Mr. SawChuck. But to be fair, we have not heard The Illusionists’ side of the story.
Mr. SawChuck said, “Most of the The Illusionist cast is from Las Vegas and they are well aware that the Steam Train Illusion is my idea yet I didn’t receive ONE phone call from anyone giving me the heads up or a nod that they wanted his idea of a steam train locomotive on stage.
“It’s a fact there has never been an illusion with a steam train locomotive inside a theater before I created mine for America’s Got Talent in 2010. In this business you can’t patent an idea so it’s very easy to have your brand or idea ripped off without any credit!”
Actually, one can never patent an idea but we get his point. A patent protects only new, nonobvious and useful item. A great idea is a great idea but unworthy of a patent until it is utilized in an invention.
That being said, Mr. SawChuck could have applied for a patent for the trick and if we were wearing only our Intellectual Property Attorney hat (it is a nice bowler-style with a dark blue feather stuck in the band) we would have said he could pursue it.
But if we wear our magician hat (a collapsible fez – sort of a cross between Cardini and Tommy Cooper), we would tell him to not apply for a patent.
A patent allows its owner to exclude others from selling or using the invention. That’s great but to receive this time-limited protection, the application needs to specify the method and construction of the device in excruciating detail.
Good news: no one else can use the device. Bad news: everyone knows how to build the device. As we say around the office, you can take a secret to your grave, but not to the Patent Office.
Mr. SawChuck really had no way – short of depending on the good intentions of his colleagues in our wondrous art – to keep others from performing the exact same effect.
A wise judge once told us, “the thinnest piece of bacon has two sides.” We thought he was talking about the rather miserly portions available to prosecutors in the courthouse café, but it turns out he was advising us to always get both sides of any story before making up our mind. We have not heard from The Illusionists yet but when we do, we will update this story.