As a patent attorney, one of my guilty pleasures includes the finding and reading of quirky patents. Every now and then, a patent issues containing remarkable figures or incredibly specific claims. However, even something that seems ridiculous can result in a patent infringement claim, if active. So long as an infringer checks the box on every element of a claim, patent infringement remains a possibility. With certain types of claims, an infringement analysis can prove extremely difficult to perform; an example of this is a claim set including method claims, describing the performance of a series of steps. This Thanksgiving, make sure you don’t infringe this patent for a method of de-boning a turkey.
Filed in 2002, this patent, covering a “Process for de-boning a turkey,” issued within about one year; a relative short prosecution time. The inventor identified a need within the industry – turkeys often cook including bones, requiring de-boning post-cooking. However, the bones add to the cook time, and removing bones post-cooking can be time consuming and difficult. As such, the inventor sought a more efficient method of de-boning a turkey, specifically prior to cooking.
The patent proceeds to teach the inventor’s improvement to the de-boning process in extreme detail. Together with figures depicting each step, the inventor set out to describe specific incision and removal steps. The resulting patent includes a set of instructions for the de-boning process, including making an incision along a leg bone for removal; the severing and removal of three segments of a wing bone; incisions to gain access to and remove a ribcage and wishbone; and the removal of a thighbone.
How to Infringe a Method Claim
To infringe the patent, one would have to perform the exact steps as laid out in the patent. In practice, however, identifying infringement of a method claim set can be difficult in the absence of a machine that performs the steps, or first-hand knowledge of infringement. However, while the claims may seem narrow, at least some commercial value results from simply by having a patent on the de-boning process.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Smith & Hopen. Stay safe and healthy, and make sure you don’t infringe any Thanksgiving patents!
For a utility patent, typical claim types include apparatus or device claims, composition claims, system claims, and method claims. Specifically, the definition of patentable subject matter includes “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.” 35 U.S.C. 101.
Sometimes, even narrow patents hold commercial value. Of course, a broad patent can apply to numerous potential infringement claims. However, even a narrow patent, if well-written, can result in a successful infringement claim.