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Do you understand IP? For some start-up companies and inventors Intellectual Property (IP) can be an unknown commodity. Having a basic understanding can help to inform business decisions and ensure you are able to support your innovation going forward. This could include approaching the relevant experts including intellectual property researchers such as Patent Seekers and/or patent, design or trademark attorneys for guidance as needed*.
With this in mind we were recently asked if there were any questions that newcomers to IP often ask. There are many, and so we asked Sue Leslie also relatively new to both IP and Patent Seekers, to develop an article answering some of these questions, including:
Should I keep my invention secret?
What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)?
Can I carry out my own prior art search?
Developed from a newcomers’ perspective we hope it answers many of the questions people new to IP may face.
With July 4th weekend upon us, we at Patent Seekers would like to wish our families, friends and colleagues in the United States a Happy Independence Day by looking at the US patents that have helped make July 4th the undisputed King of BBQ related holidays. We’ll explore the filing history of these patents, investigate the oldest BBQ patents we can find and take a look at some of the most recent publications to get a glimpse of where BBQ technology is currently. We’ll also take a sweeping look at the patent landscape, seeing where innovation is heaviest. Lastly, we’ll highlight some of the more weird and wonderful innovations in the area. By the end we’ll have shone some light on this niche of the culinary industry, highlighting the American innovations that have culminated in the barbecue’s domination of holidays such as July 4th, as well as its place amongst the top traditions of the summer months.
BBQs: A Patent History
As part of our insight in to the world of patents it only felt right to take a look back to some of the earliest references to BBQ innovation, to those barbecues that took the first foray into the realm of patent protection. Some of the earliest documents include: US1156773A, entitled “Barbecue Furnace”. This patent has an application date from 1915, making it the earliest reference we could find. It appears to relate to “constructing a portable folding stove or furnace for camp or field use made usually of a size to receive a quarter of beef for instance, so that it could be stored in small compass, easily transported, quickly set up”. US1250861A, entitled “Barbecue Stove” has an application date of 1917 and also appears to focus on portability. By contrast we also looked at some of the most recent patents that relate to barbecues. We found US2020178546A with an application date of 10th Dec 2019, entitled “Smoke-producing device for an outdoor grill” and US2020054168A “Pizza oven” with an application date of 13th August 2019, which appears to relate to a device for allowing pizza to be cooked on a barbecue grill.
Figure 1 (below) shows the filing history of barbecue related patents from 1915 to 2019. The filings appear to follow a pattern of almost sudden spiking, followed by a slight dip. There is a clear upward trend of filings from 1915 through to a tremendous peak in 2005, however, filings appear to have gradually decreased thereafter. Other noticeable peaks include the years 1989 & 2000.
Current BBQ Landscape
Figure 2 illustrates a set of documents clustered according to their semantic proximity where a point corresponds to a patent family. The map provides a visualisation of the technology clusters prevalent within the barbecue portfolio and reveals a diverse set of interests. The largest clusters appear to mainly relate to portability (blue dots) and barbecue covers/smokers (orange dots). Other clusters appear to relate to specific parts of the barbecue such as the grill assembly (dark blue dots), the stove (red dots) and the fuel supply (brown dots) or to accessories such as tongs (purple dots). The last remaining clusters appear to relate to barbecue sauce (green dots, grey dots).
Weird and Wonderful BBQ
When conducting the research for this paper, we came across a number of stand-out patents. We thought it would be a disservice not to draw attention to at least some of these great innovations!
US2016345774A1 – Stadium Barbeque Grill – Abstract – A stadium barbecue grill comprising an upper hood and a lower base defining an interior of the grill, a grid cooking surface with an indicia of an American football field; and an exterior indicia of an American football stadium attached to the hood.
USD627597S – Boxing glove shaped barbecue grill
With the current long days and cool nights of the summer months upon us, we are well and truly into the prime barbecue season. It is a wonder how much of the innovation present in today’s barbecues is patented, and how today’s barbecues have been shaped by the patents before them. This brief and light-hearted glimpse into the patents behind the barbecue culture has shown that barbecue innovation appears to be on the decline, does this mean that we have already reached the pinnacle of barbecue related technology?
Although the barbecue appears to be a relatively simple invention, with a long patenting history, there still appears to be room for innovation, certainly for attachments, accessories and/or means to cook food not usually associated with a barbecue, such as pizzas. Could this be enough to warrant at least a small resurgence in US barbecue tech?
As we make our way through these summer months, people everywhere have a renewed sense of appreciation for the barbecue and its long-standing tradition of bringing friends, families and communities together. We hope that this report has helped increase that appreciation by drawing some attention to the hard, behind-the-scenes work that has gone into making the barbecue the amazing cooking device that it is today.
From everyone at Patent Seekers, we hope you have an amazing July 4th Weekend!
Happy Independence Day!
This article was written by Alec Griffiths, IP Manager at Patent Seekers.
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