For the Love of Food – Patenting Stuff You Eat
We all like to eat good food. For some of us, like award-winning master chef Joël Robuchon (holder of 31 Michelin stars) or Gordon Ramsay (holder of 6 Michelin stars and famous terror TV cooking shows), cooking good food is truly an art.
But--can food also be protected by a patent?
The answer (which you may find surprising) is yes – food CAN be patented. In fact, there’s a whole class of patents devoted just to food. Yum!
US patent class 426 covers food or edible material. The international patent class system has three classes for food:
1. A21 for dough or baking
2. A22 for processing or handling meat, poultry or fish
3. A23 for all other foods
Beer, spirits and wine – and how to make them - can all be found in C12.
But don’t get too excited yet over patenting Grandma’s special chocolate cake (although I bet it’s really delicious!). As the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) points out, while the process of preparing food – basically a recipe – may be patentable, it has to overcome some barriers.
First, the recipe has to be new.
And second, it has to be non-obvious.
Since people have been preparing all kinds of food for centuries, most recipes are not new – and even if they are new, the small tweaks that they feature would be considered to be obvious.
So what’s an example of food that has been patented?
US Patent No. 8399036 protects a layered taco maker and a method for making layered tacos.
The patent helpfully points out that Figure 1 is a prior art (that is, already known) taco, while Figures 3a-3e show the improved method of making the taco – and Figure 3e shows the improved taco itself. That’s clear, isn’t it?
US Patent No. 8223196 protects a digitally enhanced cake, with what looks like a spaceship on the cake.
So as you can see, food is going high tech. It’s not just your mom’s cooking anymore!
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