Researchers at Oklahoma State University have filed a patent application on a previously unknown chunk of meat and a method for extracting it that can be used to produce a high-end, presumably delicious steak (click here to see the Vegas Strip Steak patent application). Although it may sound crazy that meat products are an “invention” and are eligible for patent protection, they can actually qualify under United States patent law, along with nearly every type of invention that you can think of.
The patent system was designed to reward inventors with a temporary monopoly on their invention and also encourage inventors to share their invention with the public to spur further research and development. Not everything is patentable though. Among other criteria, an invention must be novel, useful, and non-obvious to qualify for patent protection. The initial patent eligibility requirements are found in 35 U.S.C. 101. This section states:
Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title
Steak lovers everywhere would agree that discovering a new way to cut beef is a useful process and the steak itself could be considered a “composition of matter”. That is why Oklahoma State can apply for a patent on their extraction process and on the end product. But meeting these initial criteria is just the first hurdle. As Section 101 states, there are further conditions to obtaining a patent. These further conditions are the primary criteria during examination with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The patent examiner assigned to the application will examine the “prior art” – basically all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent’s claims of originality – to see if the invention is novel and non-obvious enough to be granted patent protection.
If Oklahoma State is able to satisfy the United States Patent and Trademark Office that their new process and cut of steak meets all the criteria for patent protection, then they will be granted of exclusivity over the process and product described in the “claims” of their patent for a period of twenty years from the date of their original application. This would mean that Oklahoma State would be entitled to exclude everyone in the United States from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing their tasty steaks. But this probably won’t mean that if you want to try a Vegas Strip Steak, you have to go to Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State will most likely license their patent to various meat manufacturers and enjoy a potentially lucrative royalty on each cut of steak processed and sold by the manufacturers. If you have questions about what is and what isn’t patentable or have an invention of your own, please contact the patent attorneys at Clegg Law. The patent process can be very complex and having an experienced patent attorney can be invaluable. Clegg Law can provide you with the confidence knowing that your invention will be given the attention that it deserves.