As patent attorneys, we are quite used to seeing new ideas and amazing innovations  in all areas of technology. That said, a recent Kickstarter campaign for a real life version of the ‘Hoverboard’ which featured in the 1985 film Back to the Future got our office talking.

Surely no-one in the era of perms, powersuits and parachute pants could have anticipated that the ‘Hoverboard’ would be a real life proposition 30 odd years later? Which led us to thinking: what other technology from the world of film and television has come to real life?

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US Patent Application for Hoverboard: “Magnetic levitation of a stationary or moving object”.

The Jetsons (1962) – This space age cartoon which bore striking (but not at all deceptive) similarity to the Flintstones, featured flat screen televisions, video phones, household robots and robot vacuums. Although the Roomba Robot Vacuum is no match for Rosey the robot maid, the Mahru-Z robot maid (developed by the Korean Institute of Science and Technology) might well be. While we have all of these products now, sadly a flying car is for the most part still but a dream.

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One of many patents by iRobot Corporation for the ROOMBA robot vacuum cleaner.

Star Trek (1966) – This classic series of both  television and film features technology at every turn. The Star Trek communicator can be seen in the flip phone mobile telephones that became prominent in the late 1990s. The medical tricorder used by the cantankerous Dr McCoy to measure the vitals of patients now exists (albeit in a more limited form) as the ScandauTM. 3D printers could well be seen to be a form of the Replicators used in Star Trek (which would replicate spare parts or hot beverages and hard liquor). As to Star Trek’s famous transporters, while scientists have transported data between two points via quantum entanglement, it’s unlikely that we as humans will be teleporting around the planet anytime soon.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – This masterpiece from director Stanley Kubrik famously features flat screen televisions, computer tablets and heuristics. In 2011, when Samsung and Apple were at loggerheads over Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet – Samsung attempted to cite the tablet device seen in the film as prior art against Apple’s design patent to invalidate it.

Star Wars (1977) – We cannot make mention of Star Trek without mentioning Star Wars. This iconic space adventure with ham fisted dialogue features the Death Star – a weapon capable of destroying a planet via a focused ‘superlaser’. You may be horrified to know that Lockheed Martin have developed and patented a direct energy weapon which combines multiple laser beams into one high-power output beam. Thankfully, Lockheed Martin’s well described patent specification would act as a suitable schematic to assist a Luke Skywalker type character to destroy said ‘Death Star’.

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US Patent for Lockheed Martin’s “Death Star” aka Method and apparatus to coherently combine high- power beams in self-imaging waveguides.

Blade Runner (1982) – This dystopian science fiction classic (featuring a timeless soundtrack by Vangelis and based on a short story by Phillip K Dick) is set in 2019 and tells the tale of genetically engineered ‘replicants’ who are ‘retired’ (aka destroyed/killed) when they are no longer useful. Everything from large scale digital signage for advertising, biometrics to multi- dimensional imaging systems is envisioned 

The Terminator (1984) – Another dystopian science fiction classic in which cyborgs have taken over planet Earth and a cyborg assassin travels back in time to dispose of the mother of an as yet unborn resistance fighter. The Terminator (aka T-800 Model 101) played by Arnold Schwarzenegger features a metal endoskeleton, and human flesh and hair on the outside. Time travel features heavily in the Terminator film franchise, as various Terminator models travel back in time with a mission to protect or destroy. We are yet to achieve time travel – but perhaps if we could – Arnold Schwarzenegger would have rethought his decision to star in 1996’s ‘Jingle All the Way’.

RoboCop (1987) – This gem (not to be confused with the 2014 remake) features a human cyborg police officer armed with the task of cleaning up a crime ridden Detroit sometime in the future. RoboCop features an exoskeleton and prosthetic limbs. US defence contractor, Ratheon produce the XOS 2 Exoskeleton which increases human strength, agility and endurance capabilities of  the person wearing it. Unfortunately, to borrow a famous line from the film, you cannot “buy that for a dollar”. Not yet anyway.

Minority Report (2002) – This quality blockbuster (like Bladerunner, based on a Philip K Dick story), features a police force that stops crimes before they happen through mutated humans who can see into the future. Numerous scenes throughout the film have Tom Cruise gesticulating wildly on a multi touch interface which we now see in several multi-touch screens on phones, computers and tablets.

While we are still waiting for X-ray vision, time travel and teleportation, we can rest easy knowing that Marty McFly’s Nike Powerlaces, now known as the Nike MAG will be available sometime in 2015.

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US Patent for Nike Air MAG power shoelaces.

If you have developed any of these items or similar, our Electronics, Physics and IT (EPIT) patent attorneys would love to hear from you!