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Court Denies Smucker's PB&J Patent 388

Posted by Zonk
from the line-in-the-sand dept.
lbmouse writes "The AP is reporting that on Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected an effort by the Jelly & Jam maker to patent its process for making pocket peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." While the company was only trying to patent the "crimping process" used to create a specific type of mass market sandwich, they had also "...asked Albie's Foods of Gaylord, Mich., to stop producing ready-made PB&J sandwiches for a school district".
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Court Denies Smucker's PB&J Patent

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  • Jesus! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Seminal (698722) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:43PM (#12184127) Journal
    asked Albie's Foods of Gaylord, Mich., to stop producing ready-made PB&J sandwiches for a school district

    I am ready to join the protesters who want to destroy corporate america. The ones who go to G7 meetings and economic forums and fight the nasty police. If some asshole wants to deprive me of the right to a PB&J sandwich because they have a patent, motherfuck them. The corporations have too much power. Too many lobbyists. And the laws are getting rediculous.

  • by A Boy and His Blob (772370) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:47PM (#12184158)
    I don't see what the big interest with this case is. I think the only reason it is getting as much publicity as it is, is because the general public actually understands the patent. The prior art is clear: ravioli, pierogies, pirags, etc.

    There are software patents being passed that are 100 times more ridiculous than this, yet you don't hear much about it outside of Slashdot or some short blurb in the tech section of the NYT.

    Most of these software patents are just as absurd as patenting a method of making a PB&J sandwich, often worse. A "System and method for creating, processing and managing educational content within and between schools," [uspto.gov] I mean come on, or a "method and system for processing input from a command line interface." [uspto.gov]

    I wish the general public would realize the ramifications of software patents like these. It is essentially re-patenting the wheel.
  • ob old commercial (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daeley (126313) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:50PM (#12184179) Homepage
    With a name like Smucker's, it has to be, uh, patent pending.
  • Re:dot dot dot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:56PM (#12184224)
    what do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have to do with my rights online?

    The same thing that canaries have to do with coal mines.

  • by goon america (536413) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:57PM (#12184229) Homepage Journal
    This is the real news here -- that the patent office rejected a patent application.

    My question is this: if they accepted swinging on a swing [uspto.gov] as worthy of a US patent, why did the USPTO decide to deny Smuckers this one?
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:59PM (#12184241) Journal
    With a name like Smucker's, it has to be, uh, patent pending.

    ROFL. If I had mod points, I would mod that insightful. LOL.

    Seriously, we need to do something about patent law. It is getting to be a joke. I remember when anyone could work on their car. I bet in 5-10 years there will be systems that GM and Ford and Toyota will patent so only they can fix it, and charge much more money. People joke about patents to blow jobs. Wait til you get a sunshine job, and the bill.

    When did patent law become a way to make a monopoly?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:01AM (#12184258)
    As if you actually know or understand the patent system. Theres lots wrong with it, but, please, go read up on it before you go pretending you know anything at all.
  • by SteelV (839704) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:05AM (#12184293)
    Patent comes in for a new type of PB&J.

    Worker: Hey! I could have thought of that... hell, the wife makes one every Tuesday... DENIED.

    Patent comes in for a new "technology." A Web site will have a box labeled Username and one labeled Password, and a Submit button that logs on the user to the Web sites system.

    Worker: That sounds complex about computer web site things. Must be some new technology. APPROVED.
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:23AM (#12184406)
    When did patent law become a way to make a monopoly?

    That was always the point. When you file a patent, you share your idea in exchange for a monopoly for a limited time. The problem is that the patent office is being bombarded by applications so they just figure "grant everything and let the courts sort it out". The problem with that is that it allows deep pocket companies to bully anyone they want by filing for ridiculous patents.

  • Re:OMG! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eexlebots (203658) <eexlebotsNO@SPAMsubrevolt.com> on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:23AM (#12184413) Homepage
    ohh awesome ebaum, the site for ripping off other people's content and even editing out the creators/original watermarks and replacing it with a url for their shitty site!

    Hell it is still kinda
    amusing I guess

  • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:26AM (#12184425) Homepage Journal
    It will get noticed when some company that exists only to snatch up patents and then litigate over them (like Immersion) manages to get ahold of a patent for something like the hyperlink or the for-loop or something and tries to grind the whole U.S. economy to a halt.

    In other words, no one is going to fix until we get the USPTO-induced equivalent of flying airplanes into buildings.

    After all, Congress is too busy roadblocking each other over judicial nominees or debating back and forth to decide if Social Security will self-destuct in 2020 or 2025, and how much of the U.S. economy it will take down with it.

  • Re:Jesus! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pete6677 (681676) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:10AM (#12184677)
    Actually this case was an example of the system working the way it's supposed to. Some company got a patent that seemed legitimate at first, they tried to enforce it in a blatantly abusive way, and the courts stopped them. I'll agree that corporations have too much power in certain situations, but this is not one of them.
  • by drooling-dog (189103) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:19AM (#12184714)
    This pisses me off.

    I think what offends the "geeks" you're arguing with is that patentability implies that an idea has some novelty and is not obvious to anyone "skilled in the art" to which it pertains. Yet, patents are often granted that violate these principles, sometimes to an absurd extent.

    patents are not about incentives, they're about outright survival in a competitive market place.

    The purpose it to promote innovation, not to grant monopolies simply for the asking. The government does not owe you success. Success in a competitive marketplace comes from competing successfully.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:30AM (#12184764)
    What stops the manufacturer of these machines from selling them to a competitor? What stops other manufacturers from making them if the design gets leaked?

    If there is anything unique about the machines they designed, they should get a patent on that. But they didn't. They got a patent on the sandwich.

    The idea of "leaking" the secret about a crimped PBJ with PB on both slices of bread is absurd. It's not innovative, it's obvious, and it took just about zero investment of time and capital to come up with. Here are the exact claims from the patent:

    1. A sealed crustless sandwich, comprising: a first bread layer having a first perimeter surface coplanar to a contact surface; at least one filling of an edible food juxtaposed to said contact surface; a second bread layer juxtaposed to said at least one filling opposite of said first bread layer, wherein said second bread layer includes a second perimeter surface similar to said first perimeter surface; a crimped edge directly between said first perimeter surface and said second perimeter surface for sealing said at least one filling between said first bread layer and said second bread layer; wherein a crust portion of said first bread layer and said second bread layer has been removed.

    2. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 1, wherein said crimped edge includes a plurality of spaced apart depressions for increasing a bond of said crimped edge.

    3. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 2, wherein said crimped edge is a finite distance from said at least one filling for increasing said bond.

    4. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 3, wherein said at least one filling comprises: a first filling; a second filling; a third filling; and wherein said second filling is completely surrounded by said first filling and said third filling for preventing said second filling from engaging said first bread layer and said second bread layer.

    5. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 4, wherein said first filling and third filling have sealing characteristics.

    6. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 5, wherein: said first filling is juxtaposed to said first bread layer; said third filling is juxtaposed to said second bread layer; and an outer edge of said first filling and said third filling are engaged to one another to form a reservoir for retaining said second filling in between.

    7. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 6, wherein said first filling and said third filling are comprised of peanut butter; and said second filling is comprised of a jelly.

    8. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 7, wherein said crimped edge is formed into a substantially circular shape.

    9. A sealed crustless sandwich, comprising: a first bread layer having a first perimeter surface, a first crust portion and a first contact surface; a first filling juxtaposed to said first contact surface; a second bread layer having a second perimeter surface, a second crust portion and a second contact surface; a second filling juxtaposed to said second contact surface; a third filling; a crimped edge directly between said first and second perimeter surfaces for sealing said first, second, and third fillings between said first and second bread layers; wherein said first and second crust portions have been removed and said third filling is encapsulated by said first and second fillings.

    10. The sealed crustless sandwich of claim 9 wherein said first filling and said second filling have sealing characteristics.

    There are two parts to this patent: (1) So the jelly soaks through the non peanut-buttered side. 90% of the population could solve that dillemma in 30 seconds by putting PB on both sides. (2) So the sandwich is loose. Crimp it just like ravioli has been crimped for over a century.

    Notice that there is not a single reference to any machine that could make this sandwich. Just two dead-simple ideas that even a person of low intelligence would think of as soon as they saw the problem description.

    This is not some mysterious rocket-science research that needs to be nurtured. It's just a sandwich that you could make in your kitchen in 60 seconds, except that now it's illegal.

  • Re:Jesus! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mOdQuArK! (87332) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:40AM (#12184816)
    Actually this case was an example of the system working the way it's supposed to.

    If the system was working the way it was supposed to, this patent & 90% of the others would be laughed out of the Patent Office front door.

    The fact that the _backup_ system (the U.S. Court of Appeals) managed to work in THIS ONE CASE, hardly means that the system is working the way it's supposed to.

  • by mamladm (867366) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:49AM (#12184860) Homepage
    ... the problem is ENFORCEMENT.

    We don't need to do anything about patent law. What we need desperately is to do something about proper enforcement of the existing rules.

    Patent law forbids granting patents on inventions for which there is prior art. Yet there is a flood of patents for which there is prior art which is against existing patent law.

    Patent law forbids granting patents on inventions which are obvious deductions from prior art. Yet there is a flood of patents which do not meet the criteria of non-obviousness, again against existing patent law.

    Patent law also forbids granting patents on applications which are not described in enough detail to allow persons skilled in the art to carry out the invention (ie build the apparatus). Yet there is a flood of fuzzy patents which were not specified in the required detail, yet again against existing patent law.

    The one primeval problem there is with the patent system today is that enforcement of existing legislation is anywhere from too lax to non-existant. That is the issue we ought to acknowledge and do something about.

    The fact that we, the public, do not acknowledge this to be the root cause, that we usually talk nonsense when it comes to patent issues, that we consequently do not lobby for better enforcement, this only works into the hands of those who abuse the system, who take advantage of the lack of enforcement of patent law.
  • by mOdQuArK! (87332) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:49AM (#12184863)
    All you geeks are ranting about how you basically shouldn't be able to patent anything.

    That's right.

    It doesn't matter what the product is that you're making, you should be able to patent a novel process.

    Why?

    If I figure out a way to synthesize a new drug I should be able to patent that process.

    Why? Are you so special that if someone else works out how to synthesize that drug independently of you, that you should be able to stop them from taking advantage of their own research?

    You're free to clone their product and compete with them, you just have to come up with your own process to do it.

    If their "process" is so braindead that a chimpanzee can imitate the process after viewing it once, why in the hell should they be granted a patent on it?

    That's the justification for patents

    Too bad the so-called justification is without merit

    and without it we wouldn't have all the innovative technology we use every day.

    B.S. We'd have innovation coming out of our eyeballs if big companies weren't using "intellectual property" laws to squash their competition.

    patents are not about incentives, they're about outright survival in a competitive market place.

    If a company can't survive in a marketplace without being granted a government-enforced monopoly, then THEY DON'T DESERVE TO SURVIVE. Propping up failing companies is called corporate welfare, and prevents more economically-beneficial entities from taking their place.

  • Re:dot dot dot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:53AM (#12184872)
    close - if peanut butter and jellly sandwiches die (become patent encumbered), then it's time to get the fuck out of the mine (USA).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:56AM (#12184881)
    nobody runs linux
  • by martijn-s (456925) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:59AM (#12185284)
    As a European, I'm amazed that this kind of candy bread is actually spread, pre-manufactured, at schools!

    It's not like we don't know the PB&J over here in Holland but come on, a school should primarily serve a nice fresh cheese sandwich or something else without so much sugar.
  • Re:OMG! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Keeper (56691) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @06:57AM (#12186149)
    Life's too short to take the time to comment on someone commenting about a comment about who takes time to make some sort of crap.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @07:00AM (#12186154)
    That sounds like a mechanical/manual version of one of these [breville.co.uk]. You've been able to buy things like that here in the UK for at least 20 years. Same idea - switch that on and it heats up, make a sandwhich, put it in, close the toaster and it cuts and crimps it while it cooks it. I recommend buttering the *outside* of the bread, it makes it brown nicely.
  • by Detritus (11846) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @08:55AM (#12186500) Homepage
    Where would they get real cheese?

    This is the land of synthetic imitation cheese-like substances, manufactured in factories that most closely resemble an oil refinery. Who needs cows when you have chemical engineering?

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