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Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2005

Court doesn’t bite: Smucker’s loses bid for patent

April 9, 2005

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— There's only so far you can go in trying to patent the ever-popular peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected an effort by J.M. Smucker Co. to patent its process for making pocket-size peanut butter and jelly pastries called "Uncrustables."

Smucker's peanut butter and jelly pockets are enclosed without a crust using a crimping method that the Orrville, Ohio, company says is one of a kind and should be protected from duplication by federal law.

Patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office disagreed, saying the crimped edges are similar to making ravioli or a pie crust.

Smucker already owns a general patent, which it purchased from Len Kretchman and David Geske, two Fargo, N.D., men who came up with the idea in 1995 and had been baking the products for schoolchildren.

The two cases before the appeals court involved two additional patents that Smucker was seeking to expand its original patent by protecting its method.

The company had appealed the initial rejection to the patent office's Board of Trademark Appeals and Interferences, but that body upheld the decision to reject the patents. Smucker then took the case to the appeals court, which entered a judgment Friday, without comment.

Brigid Quinn, a spokeswoman for the patent office, said the Smucker case was one of several that sought to test the limits of what federal law had determined could be protected by patents.

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