Can I Copyright a Paradigm?

I recently decided to upgrade my mobile device. I have had an HTC Evo so when I head about the newest EVO coming out on the the 18th of May I put my name on the short list. Then this happened.

Apparently the patent in question involves the ability for a smart phone to link data to applications. For example if you click on an address the map application opens and gives you the option of asking for directions. You might think that is just activity that all smartphones have. In truth a really forward thinking engineer at Apple came up with it and an even more forward thinking lawyer suggested they patent it. So now my future phone sits in a crate in US Customs while HTC and Apple duke it out. Then I started thinking about copyright of all things.

As writers we all know the protection afford by copyright for our stories and characters but what if it went further? What if like in this mobile device situation we argued that to infinity? Say a copyrighted story has a protagonist who fights his own inner demons while fighting real demons. Yes, I am channeling John Constantine. If we apply copyright like patent law and any protagonist with inner demons violates said law what happens? Would literature just grind to a halt in a sea of take down orders? Would writers really have to apply the screws to their craniums for some wholly new and creative ideas? Fortunately we may never have to ask that. For writers copyright provides one very specific line in the sand. We are encouraged to encroach said line as close as we can without stepping over it. Too bad patents didn’t work more like copyright, then I’d have my new phone on Friday.

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