21 November 2008

McDonald's Sandwich Patent

You can't make this stuff up:

The present invention relates to a sandwich assembly tool and methods of making a sandwich, which may be a hot or cold sandwich, quickly by pre-assembly of various sandwich components and simultaneous preparation of different parts of the same sandwich. The sandwich assembly tool is composed of a member preferably having one or two cavities for containing a quantity of garnish. The cavities are used for the assembly of the sandwich. The tool may have a raised ridge adjacent one or both cavities for placement against the hinge of a bread component. Methods of making a sandwich] are disclosed. The methods may include one or more of the use of preasseribled sandwich fillings, assembly of garnishes in advance of a customer's order or while ether portions of the sandwich are being heated using the sandwich assembly tool, the simultaneous heating of a bread component and the sandwich filling, placing the bread component over the tool containing garnish, and inverting the tool and bread combination to deposit the sandwich garnish onto the bread component.

And don't miss the flowchart that explains how to make a sandwich. (Via Against Monopoly.)

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems to be a patent for the underlying methods of a device. What is your problem with it?

glyn moody said...

Because methods aren't things, they're essentially ideas - and you can't patent ideas (well, you can, given the broken patent systems in many parts of the world, but that's another issues....)

Anonymous said...

Two of my favourite words. "Prior art"

Anonymous said...

I would have thought it failed on the obviousness test anyway.

glyn moody said...

...not too mention *those* problems.

kozmcrae said...

There's a joke about someone patenting the wheelbarrow. The sandwich patent is far more outrageous. I guess, after staring at my blinking cursor for a few minutes, you could say I'm stunned silent.

Anonymous said...

guys, if you find that strange, have a look at this:

USPTO Application #: 20060014125
Title: Walking through walls training system
Abstract: This invention is a training system which enables a human being to acquire sufficient hyperspace energy in order to pull the body out of dimension so that the person can walk through solid objects such as wooden doors.
(end of abstract)



http://www.scribd.com/doc/25045/Walking-through-walls-training-system

...
apart from the obvious, thats a method as well, right?

glyn moody said...

And presumably powered by perpetual motion....

Greg Byshenk said...

I am (more or less) in agreement with the first comment.

The patent describes "a sandwich assembly tool" and methods for its use. I see nothing obviously incorrect about a patent for a tool to make some particular task quicker or easier, even if that task happens to be making a sandwich.

Of course, such a tool may very well fail "prior art" and "obviousness" tests, but that is a different matter than whether such a tool should be patentable (at least in principle).

Anonymous said...

I don't see anything wrong with the patent. I read through it and it seems to cover only making a sandwich using a particular machine using a particular method. It sounds to me like they have invented a way to take people out of the sandwich making process (other than servicing and loading the machine with ingredients.) I would agree with you that it would be bad if it was only on the method, but it is the method tied to a particular machine, which narrows the scope sufficiently, in my opinion.

As for whether there is prior art, I have never heard of such a thing (a sandwich making machine).

The application isn't just for the method, it is for the method and apparatus, as the title clearly indicates.

IPRo said...

And the Open Source reference in this patent APPLICATION is... exactly what? Is McDonald's making sandwiches in a similar way Linux devices are making them? Please elaborate...

When are you folks planning to take a course on patentese?

Lesson one: WIPO does not grant patents.

Lesson two: abstract and flowchart do not define the scope of the patent.

Lesson three: a method is a thing. it's called a method claim-thing.

And lesson four: if you know how those sandwhiches have been made in Open Source community, publicly, of course, please make sure the Examiners in countries where this Sandwich patent application is further filed will become aware of your Open Source method. That way the Open Source Community will survive the hostile attack of this verocious patent shark...

You can make a difference.

glyn moody said...

@Greg: I agree about the tool bit, but the abstract says "The present invention relates to a sandwich assembly tool and methods of making a sandwich" - it's the "methods of making a sandwich" which, er, stick in my craw....

glyn moody said...

@anon: as I said above, I don't have a problem with the machine, it's tacking on the methods bit that seems unreasonable because it looks as if it's attempting to block general *methods* of sandwich-making, not just with this machine. As the description says:

"In one aspect, the invention relates to pre-assembly of sandwich components and simultaneous preparation of different parts of the same sandwich. In one aspect, the invention relates to one or more of the following: pre-assembly of meat and cheese; simultaneous toasting of a bread component and heating a pre-assembled meat and/or cheese filling; and assembly of sandwich garnishes and condiments on a sandwich assembly tool."

Sounds pretty general to me.

glyn moody said...

@IPro: If you'd have the dubious pleasure of reading this blog for a while, you'd have noticed that I frequently write about patents. The reason being that they are probably the biggest threat to open source (it's no coincidence that Microsoft is using just such a threat).

More generally, I see patents as examples of intellectual monopolies that seek to enclose a particularly important commons - that of ideas. Again, the commons is something I frequently write about.

Finally, I like to point out examples like these that help people understand how dysfunctional the patent system is.

To your other points: I never said the WIPO granted patents, I merely pointed to their page that brought together useful info on this patent. I also never claimed that the flowchart et al. defined the patent, but they do define the mentality. Similarly, the summary of the invention reads like a parody:

"'Sandwich condiment' is intended to have a very broad meaning and includes any material used as a sandwich condiment. The "sandwich condimenf'or 'condiment' includes, but is not limited to, for example, 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. The sandwich fillings include, but are not limited to, cold cuts, steak, hamburger patties, chicken patties, sausage, hot dogs, meatballs in sauce, cured meats, pork, veal, turkey, cheese, eggs, fish, grilled vegetables, and vegetarian fillings not limited to imitations of meat, dairy or fish products. Often the sandwich filling is the source of the name of the sandwich, for example, ham sandwich, Italian sausage sandwich, beef burrito. Often the sandwich filling is the main source of protein in the sandwich."

As for methods, Article 52 c of the European Patent Convention excludes "rules and methods for performing mental acts": if that doesn't cover the "method" of making a sandwich, it jolly well should. I'm with Karl Marx on this one: the point is not to understand patent law, but change it....

Greg Byshenk said...

As for methods, Article 52 c of the European Patent Convention excludes "rules and methods for performing mental acts": if that doesn't cover the "method" of making a sandwich, it jolly well should.
I would suggest that "making a sandwich" is very much a physical and not "mental" act.

glyn moody said...

@Greg: as I indicated, I'm with Charlie....

Anonymous said...

Possibly if you changed the 't' in mental to an 'i' you would be able to exclude the patent

glyn moody said...

original thought.