I'm taking Copyright this semester, and I'm loving the class so far. The textbook, Copyright in a Global Information Economy is (again, so far) excellent. As I read about the distinctions between copyright and patent law, I can't help but believe that Andrew F. Knight's monstrously arrogant and obnoxious moneygrubbing attempt to patent a storyline will fail. His patent application is well-covered terrain, and many sharp minds have expressed their opinions about why this moronic endeavor flies in the face of common sense and good public policy.
As I read the cases in my textbook, however, I find a more basic rationale for rejecting the claim. Authors write. Inventors discover. The distinction between copyrightable creative works and patentable inventions goes back to before ratification of the U.S. Constitution., and in spite of (or perhaps because of) the morass we're in with patent law at present, the last thing the USPTO will do is radically alter the balance between copyright and patent. If they grant a patent, there will be a court challenge, and the USPTO is already backpeddaling on recent enlargements to the universe of patentable discoveries (systems and methods claims have already been questioned in the Supreme Court, for example).
As for Andrew F. Knight, I find his behavior to be the reprehensible but not surprising product of a society that has tilted so far toward the pursuit of individual profit, whatever the effect on society at large. We all have to make ethical decisions every day, whether we work for Enron or Sun Microsystems or the US Army or for Knight and Associates. Maybe, if we're lucky, the overreaching of people like Knight will start to shift the public at large toward a broader conception of prosperity, one that doesn't focus on using the law to protect a few at the expense of many.