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Is it Patentable?
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   stuffed crust pizza, strong patent or not?
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   Author  Topic: stuffed crust pizza, strong patent or not?  (Read 5514 times)
jeff razenski
stuffed crust pizza, strong patent or not?
« on: Sep 21st, 2005, 9:23am »
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Ok, I have a few inventions that I willl be looking to patent shortly and I'm trying to get a feel for what would be considered a strong patent and what would be considered a weak patent- meaning if someone tried duplicating my idea what would be the lilklihood of me being successful in a patent infrigement suit.  
1) I've owned three pizzerias that were recently sold and what always intrigued me was the stuffed crust pizza that Pizza Hut developed or from what I read they actually stole the idea from a company called Angelo Mongiello's Children, LLC. I always wanted to implement stuffed crust pizza in my pizzerias, but I feared of being sued by Pizza Hut for patent infrigement. I never hired a patent attorney to look into it since I intended on selling my pizzerias within the year, but my question is it seems now that all the big chains are coming out with some sort of stuffed crust pizza and correct me if I'm wrong, but the reason I believe they are able to do this is because the so called original inventors of stuffed crust pizza had the idea patented back in 1987 and since a patent is valid for 14 years their patent would have become public domain back in 2001 and thereafter anyone was free to use it with no compensation to the original inventors.  
Ok, now to my question, would the stuffed crust pizza invention be considered a strong patent or a weak patent? I realize the criteria is usefulness, novel, and non-obvious and where I get confused is that although it would meet the three criteria's stated above or at least I think it would, all that the inventors were really doing is using two common ingrediants in a pizza which are cheese and dough and furthermore all they were doing is putting cheese on the edges of pizza and folding it over which to me is not that far of a cry from putting cheese over most of the dough to make a normal pizza and pinching the edges when setting the dough in the pans, so my question once again would be would this "stuffed crust pizza" be considered a strong patent?  
2) My second question is can someone take an invention from one product and then apply it to another product and receive their own patent for the different product. For example, suppose I had a great idea for a patent that would apply to boats, however this idea has already been invented and is being used on vehicles and I'm confident it is not being used on boats. To give more of an insight of what I'm leading up to I will try to use a good anology. Everyone has probably heard of the intermittent wiper (the wiper on the back windows of SUV's). Now suppose that the guy who invented this technology had it patented for cars and then I came along and said wow what a great idea and I then come up with a simlilar idea for boats to have an intermittment wiper on the back window of the captains ****pit. Would I be able to get a patent on this since the technology was out there, but the patent was only for vehicles and not boats? ANother good example would be going back to my pizza days and I read in a pizza trade magazine that the 3 legged plastic that you see in the middle of pizzas to prevent the box from caving into the pizzas was invented by a lady from NY and supposedly she made millions from this idea. Once again, if I had taken that idea and came up with a similar aparatus for cakes would my patent be a strong one or would the lady who invented the pizza device have a blanket patent for any similiar device used for other foods even though her patent only focused on pizzas?  
Like I said I'm just trying to get a feel on what to expect since I have one invention that I'm certain is novel and another one that would be taking an invention from one product and applying it to another product. ANy comments or insights appreciated!
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Re: stuffed crust pizza, strong patent or not?
« Reply #1 on: Sep 21st, 2005, 10:39am »
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I'd define the "strength" of a patent two ways.
A patent can be "strong" if has broad claims and also claims or at least discloses commercially important embodiments of the invention.  Using the pizza box support example, if the patent claims something like this:
   A food container comprising  a cover, a spacer unit
   and a food item, the cover having a lower surface and
   the food item having an upper surface, wherein the
   spacer unit is in contact with at least one of the lower
   surface of the lid and the upper surface of the food.
I would consider this a broad (if poorly written) claim.  The way it's written the claim is independent of the type of food, the material or the shape of the spacer or the box.  In that sense it is a strong claim, it's difficult to design around.
A patent can also be "strong" if it is defensible in court.  If the patent was well written with relevant references and 35 USC 112 requirements taken into consideration, if there was no inequitable conduct, if inventors were properly identified, if there are several independent claims describing different aspects of the invention and dependent claims of varying scope, and if the patent has a clean prosecution history, then the patent is probably "strong."
Ideally a patent would be strong in both respects claims that cover commercially valuable embodiments, and defensible in court.  Unfortunately if a patent is not strong in either sense, its value is greatly diminished.
Richard Tanzer
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Richard Tanzer
Patent Agent
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Posts: 2584
Re: stuffed crust pizza, strong patent or not?
« Reply #2 on: Sep 21st, 2005, 11:09am »
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I agree with Richard.  With respect to this particular patent, it's impossible to tell without doing extensive research -- at least looking into some possible alternatives and determining whether they'd infringe and looking into prior art and other ways the patent might have been challenged.
However, whether it was strong in the past is now moot; it's expired and effectively dead.  Your free to make all the stuffed crust pizza you like (assuming your correct on the expiration).  By the way, patents issued in 1987 expired 17 years later, not 14.
For your second question, a new, non-obvious use for a known thing is patentable.  However, I'd like to point out that a boat is a vehicle, although land-based vehicles tend not to have a "thingy pit" (my apologies for the rather simpled-minded naughty word extractor in these forums).  For the microstool in the middle of boxed pizza, I would be very surprised if the claims were specifically limited to pizza and/or hot cheese being separated from the box.  
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James D. Ivey
Law Offices of James D. Ivey
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