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September 05, 2004

With a Name Like Smuckers, It Has to Be Patented

If you look carefully at a package of Smuckers Uncrustables, you will see that it is covered by US patent 6,004,596. Or at least the peanut butter and jelly version is (for those who don't habitually make lunches for small children, Uncrustables are prefab sandwiches; you keep them in the freezer, pop them in a lunchbox, and through the magic of ever-increasing entropy, they are ready to eat when noontime rolls around).

So what is patentable in a pre-made PB&J? If you click on over to the patent, the abstract reads as follows (yes, the first sentence is copied verbatim, grammatical confusion and all):

A sealed crustless sandwich for providing a convenient sandwich without an outer crust which can be stored for long periods of time without a central filling from leaking outwardly. The sandwich includes a lower bread portion, an upper bread portion, an upper filling and a lower filling between the lower and upper bread portions, a center filling sealed between the upper and lower fillings, and a crimped edge along an outer perimeter of the bread portions for sealing the fillings therebetween. The upper and lower fillings are preferably comprised of peanut butter and the center filling is comprised of at least jelly. The center filling is prevented from radiating outwardly into and through the bread portions from the surrounding peanut butter.

OK, so if you missed it, the key sentence is the last one. Sure, any yahoo with some bread, some peanut butter, some jelly, and a crimping machine could come up with this thing. But the patentable idea, the brilliant insight that is non-obvious to someone skilled in the art of making sandwiches, is the relative position of the peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

See, in a sandwich you have your bread [quoth the patent] "having a first perimeter surface coplanar to a contact surface", and then you've got your filling "of an edible food juxtaposed to said contact surface". And then you've got the third filling, which is the same as the first filling. And then [insert drum roll] "said second filling is completely surrounded by said first filling and said third filling for preventing said second filling from engaging said first bread layer and said second bread layer". Do ya see it!?!?!?! If you make a sandwich like I make it, with bread, peanut butter, jelly, and bread in that order, then the jelly "engages" with the bread, and the bread gets soggy. But if you make the sandwich so that the peanut butter completely surrounds the jelly, then the bread doesn't get soggy. I love it.

And I haven't even gotten to the other great things in this patent (which helpfully offers the book 50 Great Sandwiches as its sole reference)...the discussion of the crimped edge "a finite distance from said at least one filling" (as opposed to what distance?)...and then the pictures...and when they start talking about all that wasted outer crust, I almost shed a tear.

Posted by AdamBa at September 5, 2004 10:26 PM

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