The Taste of Patentable Innovations - What happens when scientific research enters the kitchen?

Most chefs would never think of downloading recipes from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) patent database. To quote a Martha Stewart catchphrase, that’s probably “a good thing.” Patentese can collide mightily with the common sense of cooking, as the Chef America v. Lamb-Wesson case demonstrated. That 2004 case involved a dough-producing process, which included a step of “heating the resulting batter-coated dough to a temperature in the range of 400° F to 850° F for a period of time ranging from 10 seconds to 5 minutes” to first set the batter and melt the shortening flakes.

While the USPTO isn’t on most people’s recipe Rolodex, patents offer an intriguing window into potential market trends. As savvy cooks know, if you follow this baking step literally, the resulting product resembles a charcoal briquette. However, patent claims “mean exactly what they say,” according to Chef America: “The dough is to be heated to the specified temperature. Nothing even remotely suggests that what is to be heated is not the dough but the air inside the oven in which the heating takes place. Indeed, the claim does not even refer to an oven.”

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