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McDonalds Files To Patent Making a Sandwich 346

Posted by kdawson
from the mayo-gets-its-own-claim dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "McDonalds has applied for patent WO2006068865, which carries the title 'METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR MAKING A SANDWICH.' John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, can eat his heart out (unless that's been patented, too). Undoubtedly, some people are contemplating whether there's anything novel in this patent that is somehow obscured by its generic title. Feel free to examine their flowchart for yourself and see exactly how novel their sandwich 'subroutines' are. The good news is that, given that it only mentions generic sandwich making 'tool(s),' rather than any specific machine, it might not survive after the In Re Bilski decision, which was meant to put a stop to absurdities such as this. But until McDonalds's application is rejected or invalidated, make sure you don't use their flowchart when making sandwiches. After all, if you 'apply appropriate condiments to appropriate compartment,' you might infringe upon their IP."
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McDonalds Files To Patent Making a Sandwich

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  • Safe! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:49PM (#25879785)

    if you 'apply appropriate condiments to appropriate compartment

    Thank god all of my condiments are inappropriate.

    A lot of my compartments as well for that matter

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:50PM (#25879795)

    I can has cheezburger patent?

    • hai! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:12PM (#25880005) Homepage

      im in ur patent office
      approvin teh obveeyus

      • Re:hai! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by networkBoy (774728) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @02:35AM (#25882463) Homepage Journal

        Thank you.
        Pished as I am (nice bottle btw) I can't help but think this is obvious.

        What we need is a typing device that can interpret it's drunken owners keystrokes so that a comment like this doesn't take nearly 5 in to type.

      • Somebody set up us the sandwich
        We get order
        (What?)
        Main machine turn on
        (It's you!)
        How are you, may I take order?
        All your burgers are belong to us
        You are on the way to construction
        (What you say?)
        You have no chance to fry, make your time
        Ha ha ha
        Manager !!
        Take off every 'ZIG'
        You know what you doing
        Move 'ZIG'
        For great cheesburgers
    • by mpaque (655244) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:22PM (#25880117)

      I haz a prior art. What I do wif it?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:31PM (#25880175)

      The broken link was meant to go here [patentlyo.com]. I have no idea why Slashdot changed it from the original you can find in my submission. Perhaps they intended to link to a past Slashdot story? Oh well.

      - I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property [eff.org]

      • by Zordak (123132) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:42PM (#25881255) Homepage Journal

        Respectfully, a broken link was the least of the problems with that summary. Either you are woefully uninformed about IP (which seriously harms the credibility of your little crusade), or you are deliberately misleading people. If you are going to crusade against patents, you ought to have a basic understanding of them. You should know what gives the patent scope (the claims, not the title). And you clearly have either not read Bilski at all, or you did not comprehend a single word of it. Bilski has no bearing on a method for making a sandwich. Bilski does not say "all patents that Slashdot anti-IP trolls dislike are now invalid."

        In short, if you have some meaningful argument against patents in principle, please present it. On the other hand, if the substance of that argument is, "Look, McDonald's applied for a patent on a method of making a sandwich, LOL" then I counter that you have not proved that a novel and non-obvious method of making a sandwich should not be patentable. You certainly haven't proved anything about this method, since you have read no more than the title. And failing to prove a specific case does not magically translate into proving the general proposition.

        • by Repossessed (1117929) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:36AM (#25881679)

          How does Bilski not apply here? The sandwich making process they list in their claims is not tied to a particular device, but is implemented by human hands. I have not admittedly, read the whole decision, but the 'must be tied to a particular device' part seems pretty straightforward.

        • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:42AM (#25881735) Journal
          Zordak wrote:

          In short, if you have some meaningful argument against patents in principle, please present it. On the other hand, if the substance of that argument is, "Look, McDonald's applied for a patent on a method of making a sandwich, LOL" then I counter that you have not proved that a novel and non-obvious method of making a sandwich should not be patentable. You certainly haven't proved anything about this method, since you have read no more than the title. And failing to prove a specific case does not magically translate into proving the general proposition.

          True enough zordak. What I think most people are beating around the bush here is that basically anyone who patents sandwich making is some kind of a buttmunching douchebag. It's a fucking sandwich.

          RS

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @03:02AM (#25882689)

          My mistakes are due to knowing more about what patents ought to be than what they are. One need not understand every bit of law to know when its effects are harmful, after all.

          Anyhow, I seriously question any claim that there's something 'novel' about this method of making a sandwich. I think lots of people are able to do something else while waiting for something else (like a microwave) to finish cooking. And any time you do something more than once, it's simple enough to break it down into sub-tasks and do each of those before moving on. Lastly, serving the oldest burger first is pretty much exactly as expected.

          While you're right that this isn't a purely mental process, it's a rather menial one. Yes, there's a little bit of information buried in there about what "tools" the sandwich maker uses. But lacking very much information about that, even what little is in the claims is pretty damn useless.

          So yes, my purpose was mostly to let people laugh at a silly patent. My 'crusade' as you call it, though, is merely to get people to change weird and arbitrary laws to sensible, enforceable ones that respect the Constitutional directive to 'promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts'. I'm too well aware of the fact that it's easier said than done, but it's pretty obvious that some things aren't working.

          I did realize that the patent hadn't issued yet. It's the 'rejected' part of 'rejected or invalidated' because the two aren't the same thing. For picking over everything I might or might not realize so carefully, how did you miss that? I guess I'm not the only one whose brain can do short-circuit evaluation of an 'or' clause.

          [Pedants, please note that I know that you are only permitted to skip evaluation of the second half if the first half is true. Even so, I am referring back to his complaint that I ignored half of the machine-or-transformation test.]

          Also, I do actually know that the claims are more important than the title, it's just that the flowchart is much more comprehensible than the text of the patent. Normal people, who might in theory want to make use of this patent when it expires, have a hard enough time understanding technology of any sort to begin with. You add legalese to that and the patent becomes worthless as a description of anything. Even though it's supposed to help those "skilled in the art" to duplicate the invention (which art? law??).

          Patents as they exist now are a profit center for patent lawyers and a business expense for industry. No one I have ever known derives useful information for them (even though we have patents to get people to disclose their inventions...) and even if they wanted to, they'd be liable for triple damages for willful infringement if they were found to have read someone's patent before it expired.

          So maybe we should be reversing this line of questioning. What good are patents? They create a huge legal expense. Why are they worth that?

          - I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property [eff.org]

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Zordak (123132)

            The problem I see is you're conflating two complaints. If you think it's obvious, fine. You gave some reasonable grounds for why you think some limitations might be obvious. But that's not the same thing as saying, "They're trying to patent sandwiches!!1!1 They can't do that!" There's no reason an improved method for making a sandwich can't be statutory subject matter. It's a method of making something. That is exactly what method patents are supposed to be. If it also happens to be new and non-obvi

            • by Chrisje (471362) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @09:26AM (#25884925)

              Listen, if you invent butter you can patent that. If you happen to spread it on a sandwich clockwise with a broad wooden butter knife, I don't think you should be able to patent that. I will forever be against "process" patents, because they're just plain silly. Hence, if McD wants to patent the "DEVICE FOR SANDWICH PREPARATION", fair enough, but a flow chart detailing the various things you do when you prepare a sandwich? Never.

              The fact that you earn a living working for a patent office or law firm that specializes in IP doesn't convince me of the validity of your arguments, and neither does that paper of that partner at that firm of yours. The only thing that is written on Method/Process Patents in that paper is this:

              Business method patents protect methods of doing practically
              anything.114 - How to (1) run Priceline.com's reverse auction,115 sell magazine subscriptions,116
              get customers to "round up" purchases to the nearest dollar.

              Apart from that the paper you mention is a how-to of sorts, it does not delve into the ethical/philosophical discussion on whether patents / copyrights / trademarks actually motivate or protect "ye learned men" when they "write ye learned books" as Jefferson put it.

              So basically your arguments against the original poster's arguments are horribly coloured by the fact that you earn your livelihood in that business, and instead of honestly discussing the philosophical merits of your views, you distract by pointing at a dumbed down "how-to" written by your boss.

              That's jolly bad form, old chap. Jolly bad form indeed!

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Zordak (123132)
                You misread my intention. I said we probably would disagree because this is something I have chosen to devote my career to, while he is largely hostile to the whole field. That doesn't mean he can't have a valid opinion, but it does mean that I probably know more about the subject matter. The purpose of linking to the paper was to help him get some context. If he reads the paper and still doesn't like patents, fine. The paper was not written to be persuasive. It is an introduction to what the law is,
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DrgnDancer (137700)

          Having said that, I HAVE read the application and the method is the same one that every fast food company, every sandwich shop and, I would guess, the vast majority of restaurants of any size uses to make sandwiches. Why would McDonald's even apply for a patent with such obvious and huge stores of prior art. Even if the patent is approved it will never stand up in court. Unless they pan to patent troll mom and pop restaurants that can't afford lawyers.

  • by dspkable (773450) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:52PM (#25879811) Homepage
    I was just stacking bread without asking myself the tough questions like McDonalds did. My paper hat is off to them.
    • Save us, McDonald's! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:03PM (#25879925) Homepage

      "There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist."

      --Bill Gates, on the motivations of those who seek to reform patent law.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Bill Gates is misguided by greed. Obviously he fails to realize that patent reform would actually be good for Microsoft and even the whole rest of the computer software and hardware industries.

        The problem now is that patents are used by companies the way that nuclear weapons are used by countries -- they are a weapon of last resort, and used more as a threat than for anything else.

        A reform of patent law would probably mean that these companies could 'disarm,' in the end lowering their legal costs.

      • by MacTO (1161105) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:50AM (#25881795)

        "There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist."

        It is so easy to read that in two contradictory ways. While Gates was probably referring to anti-IP sentiment being an anti-property sentiment (hence communist), it is also possible to read it another way. All because of that word "incentive" and the quote's obvious link to copyright law rather than patent law. While IP may encourage people to create something in the first place, he is completely ignoring the bit that IP reduces the incentive to continue creating since the creator shifts into a protectionist mode. Not only does this protectionist mode reduce their own desire to innovate, but it reduces the desire of others to innovate (since you never know when you are going to be sued).

        It is also worth noting that the word "communist" doesn't mean anything when it comes from Gates' mouth, since he doesn't seem to be able to differentiate between a communist and a libertarian.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Alarindris (1253418)

        Anyone who chooses to be a musician or artist for the money is a fool. (I am a musician)

        The incentive is the applause, recognition and freedom of expression.

        Secondly, anyone starting a career in the arts for money's sake and not because they enjoy creating art probably won't produce anything of merit anyway, making it even harder to make money.

        There's a Vista joke in there somewhere...

    • by Eberlin (570874) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:30PM (#25880165) Homepage
      Not even McDonalds remembered to sudo make that sandwich... Obligatory XKCD Reference: http://xkcd.com/149/ [xkcd.com]
  • What's next?
    'McDonalds Drive Trough user patents method for burning self with hot coffee.'?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      People complain about scalding hot coffee at specific restaurant. Restaurant has policy that states coffee temperature. Coffee is continually over this temperature. People again complain about scaling coffee. Again, investigation reports coffee outside norms. Restaurant says it'll fix it. Person gets nether regions burned by coffee, sues and wins due to the afformentioned problems. Get the facts right.

      • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:03PM (#25880447)
        "People complain about scalding hot coffee at specific restaurant. Restaurant has policy that states coffee temperature. Coffee is continually over this temperature. People again complain about scaling coffee. Again, investigation reports coffee outside norms. Restaurant says it'll fix it. Person gets nether regions burned by coffee, sues and wins due to the afformentioned problems. Get the facts right."

        --excerpt from Rorschach's Journal, 1985
      • I don't drink McDonalds coffee because it's lukewarm.
    • McDonalds is now serving their food in a trough?

      I see they have finally acknowledged their food is swill.

  • Method (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gruff1002 (717818) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:54PM (#25879831)

    Other than mentioning a tool there is no tangible apparatus here. What they describe is just a way of doing something, providing a flowchart doesn't make it more impressive. Looks to me like a joke.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OECD (639690)

      Looks to me like a joke.

      To me too. Problem is, this kind of stuff is all sorted out by lawyers, who don't have a sense of humor that they are aware of.

    • Re:Method (Score:5, Informative)

      by jcorno (889560) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:16PM (#25880053)
      Methods are statutory subject matter, which means they're patentable in principle, as long as they result in a physical change. They don't even necessarily have to involve a tool at all. Those claims are perfectly valid (though maybe not patentable due to prior art). Business methods aren't necessarily patentable, because they're generally mental processes. The difference seems to be confusing a lot of people.
    • It's probably more a case of them being worried that some one else will get the patent first and cause them a lot of grief in the future, rather than McDonalds trying to control all sandwich making, everywhere...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by budgenator (254554)

      well if you file a ridiculous patent and it gets the bum's rush at the USPTO it just makes it that much more difficult for someone to file a patent to use against one of your business methods.

  • How about employees that come up with their own style of work flow? Would this require management to ensure the way staff are preparing food doesn't infringe any patents?
    • Their own style? Impossible! There will be no anarchy!
    • How about employees that come up with their own style of work flow?

      You must not be familiar with McDonalds, there is no improvising. Just like how you can't buy a fucking plastic pizza cutter from Papa Johns because you threw yours away that one night before going to Papa Murphys for pizza...

  • by Janthkin (32289) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:55PM (#25879843)

    The flowchart is irrelevant; the question is what do the CLAIMS say. Here, the claims are directed to bringing separate refrigerated sandwich makings up to temperature in very short order. Take a look, for example, at claim 1:

    A method of filling an order for a sandwich comprising: toasting a bread component for the sandwich for less than about 1 minute in response to the order in a first heating device; and initiating and completing the heating of a sandwich filling for the sandwich from about 4OF or less to about 120F or more in a second heating device, while the bread component is heating, in response to the order.

    Now, I CAN do that with my toaster & my microwave. But we don't need to resort to hyperbole to do that, do we?

    Moreover, this is a PCT application, based on US application 11/018,989. The US application has been abandoned, for failure to respond to the most basic of office actions.

    And seriously, is this news-worthy? If /. wants to publish EVERY bad patent application, it's going to get crowded here pretty quick. There's a lot of chaff out there.

    • by Throtex (708974) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:01PM (#25879903)

      Not to mention the poster's ignorance of Bilski is showing. This looks nothing like a pure business method patent application, and would easily survive the machine-or-transformation test.

      At the risk of pointing out the obvious, just because many Slashdotters have engineering backgrounds doesn't immediately give them tremendous insight into everything. This should be evident from the fact that patent attorneys have this same engineering/science background plus legal knowledge.

      That's not to say this is a good patent application. It's crummy. But as parent said, there's plenty of that, and this application poses no threat.

    • by bcdm (1031268)
      And seriously, is this news-worthy? If /. wants to publish EVERY bad patent application, it's going to get crowded here pretty quick. There's a lot of chaff out there.

      Most of said chaff, though, is not supported by legal teams bigger than many mid-size companies backed by assets of almost $30 billion [cnn.com].

      This may become a bigger thing. I plan to stay tuned.
    • You know what this reminds me of? The Stainless Steel Rat series.

      In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born(1985) there's a chain of restaurants serving Porcuswine(a mix between a pig and a porcupine, as large as a cow). The important thing? It describes a system pretty much as you state - that upon order placement automated systems make a burger, fresh from frozen, using automated equipment. It's so automated the restaurants are unmanned - a cleaning service comes through every so often, and they restock the rob

  • Prior Art (Score:5, Funny)

    by owlnation (858981) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:58PM (#25879871)
    The Earl of Sandwich called, and he wants a slice.
  • My way (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If it includes holding the pickle and holding the lettuce, there's prior art.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:59PM (#25879883) Homepage

    I wonder if all of the McManuals that cover all of this McStuff
    nullify any attempt by McDonalds to patent any of this stuff. I
    am sure there are 20 year old Manuals that cover all of this
    stuff.

    Someone with a franchise archive would be the best person to show
    prior art perversely enough.

  • I make sammiches.
  • by raftpeople (844215) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:11PM (#25879979)
    Did any parts of sandwich drop onto floor?
    If yes, have fewer than 5 seconds elapsed?
    If yes, pick up and continue with procedure...
  • Americans refer "burgers" as "sandwiches".. reserving the word "burger" to refer to just the patty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by icensnow (932196)

      Americans refer "burgers" as "sandwiches".. reserving the word "burger" to refer to just the patty.

      Speaking as a life-long American, no, we don't. America has dialect regions and I've only lived in three, but I've never thought of things this way.

      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        Fine. The point is that some Americans refer to those meat wrapped in bread things you get at McDonalds as "sandwiches". Which confuses the hell out of other English speaking people who visit your country.

        "Can I get a Big Mac please?"
        "Small, medium or large?"
        "Huh? No, I just want a Big Mac."
        "You just want the sandwich?"
        "The what? I just want a fucking Big Mac, ok?"

        • by Macrat (638047)
          The non-Americans come into McDonalds and ask for a Whopper.
          • BTW, as an America, when I went over to England my family took me to Burger King right away. The menu was completely different, and many terms seemed foreign (dip pots?) but I could immediately discern what everything meant. There are idiosyncrasies in English between the States and England, but people should be able to figure them out. It is after all, the same language.

        • A Big Mac is a Big Mac, a specific burger. And they weren't asking you the size of the sandwich. McDonalds meals have SIZES FOR THE MEALS which dictate the size of fries and drink. You didn't understand the question being asked you, and in turn you assume all Americans are stupid.

          For shame, I routinely enjoy your posts and consider you an intelligent poster here.

          • by QuantumG (50515) *

            Huh? I knew they were asking me for the size of the meal. That's why I said I only wanted the Big Mac. To acknowledge my request the clerk asked me if I only wanted "the sandwich", which is the point of this discussion. No-one else in the English speaking world calls them sandwiches, not even at McDonalds. I didn't say anyone was stupid. It's just confusing for someone who wasn't brought up in the US to have to relearn that sandwiches have anything to do with burgers. Burgers are not a subset of sand

    • by Xtravar (725372)

      It all depends highly on the context. Language is not always black and white.

      McDonald's and friends push the "sandwich" moniker since it's easier to include fish/chicken items while talking, and also it makes them sound fancier.

      For most Americans, the term sandwich does not, by default, include hamburgers. However, the two are similar enough such that sandwich, when used in a broad context, can refer to any sandwich-like object.

      For your second point, yes, sometimes "burger" may only refer to the patty. T

    • Burgers are a subset of sandwiches.

  • The "tool" is a plate.

  • The patent is a patent application to the World Intellectual Property Organization. I'm unclear if In Re Bilski [uscourts.gov] would apply, given that Bilski is an American decision.

    Of course the United States could tell WIPO to go stuff it, but that doesn't set a very good precedence, given the number of U.S. corporations which would like to leverage WIPO to prevent copyright infringement abroad.

    This is what you get, by the way, when you have a treaty organization (the United Nations) with a bureaucratic agency (WIPO) p

  • http://www.teamfortress2.de/gfx/screenshots/tf2/tf2_sandvich.jpg [teamfortress2.de]

    They even show the health benefits of each food group!

  • by Ritchie70 (860516) on Monday November 24, 2008 @09:30PM (#25880167) Journal

    If you do enough clicking, you will find that there is, in fact, a "gadget" involved here. It's some sort of hinged sandwich assembly tray. This is not just a business process patent.

    A year or two ago, McDonald's was testing out deli sandwiches in select restaurants. Based on the patent, this is probably something they came up with for that, not for their mainstream burger business.

  • McDonald's [wikia.com] still makes crappy food no matter how many patents they apply for.

    As Mad Magazine said in the 1970's "MMMM" or McDonald's Makes Messy Meals.

    P.S. Big Mac secret sauce is really Thousand Island Dressing, but they still patented it anyway as a trade secret.

  • Wouldn't it be more accurate to call this patent "How not to make a sandwich"? I sure as hell wouldn't want one of my creations being mistaken for Mickey D's fare.

  • Claims vs Title (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:11AM (#25881479)

    I realize it's considered terribly clever on Slashdot to deride every patent as "obvious", but it would be nice if people realized that the title of the patent does not indicate what the patent covers, but only the topic of the patent. Hence, a patent for making sandwiches does not cover all possible means of making sandwiches, but only a particular procedure having something to do with the making of sandwiches. What the patent *actually covers* is in the claims.

  • How Timely... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dtdns (559328) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:17AM (#25881515) Homepage

    I'd like to thank Slashdot for once again bringing us timely information from.... wait for it... 2006.

  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @12:36AM (#25881671)

    "It covers the "simultaneous toasting of a bread component" "

    -a.k.a. placing the bread in a toaster.

    "The assembly tool contains a "cavity" into which the sandwich-maker places the garnish ("including, but not limited to, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles, chilli, coleslaw, giardinera, peppers, spinach, radishes, olives, egg, cooked bacon and cheese") and the condiments ("ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, sauces, relish, oils, salt, pepper, barbecue sauce, steak sauce, hot sauce, dressings including salad dressings, yogurt, butter, margarine and liquid or semi-liquid cheese")"

    -a.k.a. a Spoon or Ladle.

    ""Typically, a sandwich filling will thereafter be placed in the bread component,""

    -a.k.a. Putting the ingredients onto bread.

    "A "bread component" is then placed over the cavity and the assembly tool "inverted" to tip out the contents."

    -Turning over the spoon or ladle and letting the ingredients fall onto the bread.

    "It also describes how to make cocktail sandwiches, by taking a full-sized version that is "cut up into smaller pieces"."

    -a.k.a. Cutting up a larger sandwich into smaller pieces.

    ""Often the sandwich filling is the source of the name of the sandwich, for example - ham sandwich.""

    -a.k.a. Naming the sandwich after it's contents.

    Wow..... McDonalds *IS* getting desperate.....

  • by mqduck (232646) <mqduckNO@SPAMmqduck.net> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @01:45AM (#25882081)

    The theory of relativity gave us atomic weapons, whereas incompetent patent offices give us patents on making a sandwich. It's obvious that Albert Einstein's change of profession was a mistake humanity has suffered from ever since.

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