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  • David Vance

Intellectual Property with Cake and Beer

It is fun to run into everyday examples of patents. It so happens that I recently ran into patents when looking for a cake for my son and prepping my new carbonated growler. Some interesting lessons from my discoveries.

The cake design patent surprised me the most. While looking for a quick dessert, per my "desperate" son's request, I was surprised to find the plastic container enclosing what looked to be a lovely cookies-n-cream cake, had a patent number on it. I then realized I had to buy the cake, at least for research purposes!

Photos of the cake container and a close-up of the patent number are shown above. As you can see, the container lists design patent no. D366,365. This patent issued in 2002, giving it a 14-year patent term expiring in 2016 (design patents issued after 13 May 2015 have a 15-year from grant term). That means our cake design patent expired in 2016. Why is the container still showing the patent number? No idea. But, since a 2011 change to 35 USC §292, it is no longer "false marking" to list the patent number of an expired patent as long as it would have been proper to list the patent before its expiration. No false marking, no foul.

Now about that beer. I am the lucky owner of a Growlerwerks UKEG-64. As I was preparing to use it, I discovered that the bottom of the keg said: "patented" (see photo). VanceIP News aficionados, probably know that stamping "patented" does not precisely follow the law regarding proper patent marking. 35 USC §287 says that either the patent number needs to follow "patent" or "pat." or there needs to be an internet address that identifies the patents. There is no patent number or website listing. This does not mean GrowlerWerks has broken any laws. Instead, they likely have not put competitors on notice of their patents, which limits damages to the time the competitors are put on notice. Turns out, GrowlerWerks has three utility patents on the pressure regulator (the keg's cap) and design patents on the keg and the bar mat (see photo).

The system works great if anyone was wondering. Unfortunately, after watching my Steelers and Buckeyes lose, the keg is empty and needs a refill.

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