Wednesday, April 13, 2005

No Patent for PBJ

Now try to keep a straight face. Smuckers lost a big one. They can't get patent protection for their "exclusive" crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
A federal appeals court rejected J.M. Smucker's effort to patent its crustless version of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Smucker's bought the idea for the "Uncrustable" sandwich, which it sells frozen and in roughly the shape and size of a pierogi, from its North Dakota inventors in 1995. Smucker's won patent protection for the treat in 1999. Before long, though, smaller operators were trying to nibble at its share of the crustless PBJ market, which generated an estimated $27.5 million for Smucker's last year. When the company tried to expand its patent, the U.S. Patent Office turned it down, saying the process of making Uncrustables wasn't unique, pointing to evidence in a cookbook and a recipe printed in a newspaper. Smucker's countered by noting that it sealed its PBJs with a special process, rather than by "commingling the two bread slices into an amorphous homogenous mass" as other cooks might do. A federal appeals court was not impressed. "It is a patent that never should have been issued," Adam Jaffe, economics professor at Brandeis University, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. "This is a technology -- if you can call it that -- that has been around in many forms for many years."
Wall Street Journal Requires subscription

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