For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Tender Patents

This Kat is vegetarian, but she was intrigued by the thought that, in the US, you could patent a steak. National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. recently did a great 20-minute piece on patents associated with cuts of bambi's mother, oh, I mean meat.  Tech Dirt and Time magazine, among others, also picked up on this story in a I-can't-believe-that-got-a-patent kind of way.  

The coverage was prompted by news that the Oklahoma State University has patented and is licensing a new steak.  More precisely, they are licensing a new cut called (and trademarked) the Vegas Strip Steak.  In an interesting example of university-industry technology transfer, the academic research of meat scientist Dr. Tony Mata is bringing the world a tender, extra lean steak that does not require aging.

Buttercup, is that you?
One part of this story I'm slightly perplexed by is the current state of the patent.  A number of the articles imply that a patent has already been granted.  Yet, the steak's website states, "As you know, fabrication of this product is intellectual property. We ARE NOT disclosing any information about the cut at this time."  It is possible that there are some disclosure and priority issues at bay, but if the information is that important that it must be kept secret, why patent?  The steak is intended for the food service industry, where presumably a patent could be enforced.  However, it would be difficult to enforce against the general consumer and hobbyist butcher.  

The NPR piece talks to the inventor of the Steak-Umm, "the best-known sandwich steak brand in America." I haven't had the pleasure, but apparently this processed meat product allows for you to bite into a Philly cheesesteak and not pull out all of the meat in one bite.  They also cook faster than traditional steaks. In true social-contract theory of IP, the NPR presenter posits that this represents an innovation, a benefit to society and merits protection.  Other patented protein sources considered in the piece are chicken and hot dogs.

Representatives of the bovine persuasion could not be reached for comment on this story. And now, please excuse me as this "value added processed soy bean curd specialist" goes and sanctimoniously attempts to create a new cut of tofu.

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