David Copperfield's Only Patent: Revealed

This magic trick was worth it.

Magician looking into magic methods illustration

People usually patent things to prevent others from stealing their hard work. The biggest magic names spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new magic. Their tricks are crucial revenue-generating assets. Each illusion must break even and hopefully continue to generate profits. It makes sense to protect such a significant financial investment.

But there are other equally fascinating reasons to patent a trick. It might simply be a vanity project. Perhaps you want the world to know it’s your original invention. Patents are documented forever in the public domain. Maybe you intend to license your trick to other industries. Theme parks and top companies will only pay the actual inventor.

I own a magic trick patent. The process was lengthy, expensive, and rather fascinating. For me, it was worthwhile in many ways, and the patent paid for itself over time.

Overall, patents are expensive and difficult to acquire. You need to be able to prove you really are the inventor (not as easy as it sounds). There’s lots of legal nonsense, and the rules differ by country. You may spend tens of thousands of dollars and never be granted the patent. Patents are great deterrents, but they don’t always provide the right protection in a legal battle.

Also, every patent must be publicly listed for the world to see.

The public part is not ideal for magicians, but you can be creative about naming the invention and who you list as its inventor. Patent attorneys might suggest listing someone you trust as the inventor instead of yourself. This makes the patent more challenging for the press, public, and magic rivals to search for and find. Famous magicians often follow this tactic and name their inventions with terminology people seeking them out might not instinctively search for.

I believe magicians must learn the many ways to protect magic. It’ll inspire more people to put in the time to create brilliant new magic, and I hope it might deter people from ripping each other off, too. Mostly, I'm just fed up with seeing magicians in Facebook groups ranting about how it’s impossible to patent a trick.

Spoiler alert – you can patent a magic trick.

The hard bit is deciding what you can do with the patent after you get it.

So why on earth has David Copperfield patented an illusion under his name? Why did he choose to patent it at all? And why this illusion and only this illusion?

"System and method for creating an illusion."

Copperfield only has one patent publicly registered to his name. The application was submitted at the start of 2014 and granted just three months later — which is quite fast. Copperfield’s team knew what they were doing and even skipped the optional patent-pending application. Let's first look at how they describe the illusion:

This post is for magicians only

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