How is this patentable? It is just an idea, and I thought ideas could not be patented. Not to mention the "prior art" from millions of kids who for decades have been pulling/cutting the crusts off their sandwich and pressing together all around the edge with their thumbs.
Great example of how broken our patent system is.
This may be a "design patent", which I have found is different from a real patent. But here, as always, the magic is in the claims. Peanut butter on both sides is unusual, and probably not "obvious to anyone in the art", and so it can be covered. But other than that, they do look a whole lot like the sandwiches my Canadian friends used to cook over a campfire. I think that they were called "Pudgy Pies." That was long before 1996. So it seems that some uses of the design may be protected by being grandfathered. Of course, we never attempted to keep them for extended periods of time, but rather only till they cooled enough to eat.
Peanut butter on both sides is something I had been doing decades ago. I didn't think it was so unusual. It helps keep the jelly from bleeding through the bread, useful for sandwiches made at breakfast time but not eaten until later in the day.
Cutting off the crust, well that wasn't something I used to do (for sandwiches I ate) because I liked some crust. But I did trim the crust for others.
So here we have a patent that combines two (or more) practices that have been around for ages. Is that what makes it new, the idea of combining things into the same sandwich?
Did the patent elaborate on whether it was white or wheat bread? Hmmm.
The question of non-obviousness is subjective. It is assumed that a patent must be non-obvious to someone "ordinarily skilled in the art", which means people normally employed in the field, not experienced engineers who would come up with the same solution. In the case of sandwiches "ordinarily skilled in the art" would be any hungry 8-year old, so the patent application should have been deemed obvious. The examiner probably restricted his prior art search to previous patents. If the examiner had also turned to back issues of "Good housekeeping", I'm pretty sure he would have found something.
"The examiner probably restricted his prior art search to previous patents" Prior art searches are not supposed to be limited to previous patents. It certainly is possible that the examiner did that, but my understanding is that doing so would not be adequate.
Of course, maybe it's so obvious to most people that it's never been written down and the patent examiner just happened to have been raised on cheese sandwiches instead of peanut butter and jelly.
We have not seen enough of the patent to even know what is patented. Everything in a patent leading up to the claims is just fluff. Until you read the claims (and only the independent ones really matter) you realy cannot tell what the patent actually protects.
In the future it would be helpfull to our understanding if the patent number would be included in the article. That way we could easily read the whole patent for educational value.
Thats US patent 6004596, and the legalistic language used to describe a sandwich is hilarious. (Perimiter coplaner to surface... edible filling juxtaposed...). The claim says, make a sandwich, remove the crust, crimp the edge so the PB doesn't squeeze out. The USPTO shouldn't grant patents for such rubbish.
Old Timer, as your name suggests you might be unfamiliar with this whole 'internet thing'. See, we have this tool called google. Your generation might call it a voodoo magic machine, mine calls it a search engine.
Just plug in any one of the sentences that Brian supplied you with from the abstract into this voodoo machine, and presto, you have the patent staring you right in the face.