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McDonald's

McDonald's files 55-page patent on process to make a sandwich

Thursday, December 07, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: McDonald's, intellectual property, patents


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(NewsTarget) The simple process of assembling a McDonalds sandwich may become a trade secret if the fast-food giant is granted the European and U.S. patents it filed for in June.

Hoping to give its hot deli sandwiches a uniform look and taste across its many outlets, and cut down on production times, McDonalds has requested a patent relating to the "methods and apparatus" used to assemble their product. The 55-page patent, viewable here, also covers the "simultaneous toasting of a bread component" and the "sandwich delivery tool" that inserts lettuce, onions, tomatoes, salt, pepper and ketchup into the "bread component's" cavity.

"Often the sandwich filling is the source of the name of the sandwich; for example, ham sandwich," the patent request states. The traditional method of manually placing a variety of fillings between two slices of bread is not in jeopardy, the patent assures, noting, "These applications are not intended to prevent anyone from using previous methods for making sandwiches."

The sandwich -- the creation of which is popularly attributed to the Earl of Sandwich in 1762 -- is in no danger of being patented by McDonalds or anyone else, said Lawrence Smith-Higgins of the U.K. Patent Office.

"They might have a novel device, but it could be quite easy for someone to make a sandwich in a similar way without infringing their claims," he said.

"This is a clear example of intellectual property gone crazy," said Mike Adams, a consumer advocate and critic of overzealous intellectual property claims. "The patent system is broken, and it awards patent protection on far too many things that are obvious to anyone in the relevant industry.

"People have been making sandwiches since the invention of bread. This is a process that clearly exists in the public domain," he said.

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