‘Steaking’ out a patent

 Resize text         Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

The meat scientist who brought us the petite tender and the flat iron steaks, Tony Mata, has done it again. He has found a previously unknown steak in the beef carcass. This one — called the Vegas Strip — is said to be much like the New York Strip steak in terms of tenderness and appearance. Mata has said he thinks this could be the last beef steak that will be discovered (though, he added, he will continue to look).

The Vegas Strip reportedly comes from the carcass’s front end, in an area currently being ground for hamburger. Its location is known only imprecisely because there’s a patent pending on the steak, or more accurately, on the cuts required to create the steak. Mata partnered with Oklahoma State University on this steak, not only for the benefits of the university’s facilities but also its intellectual property rights expertise. The ultimate goal is to generate interest among restaurants and then charge packing plants a licensing fee to cut and sell the steaks to them.

If the patent application is successful, it wouldn’t be the first patented meat product. That honor is held by Eugene Gagliardi, who invented the Steak-Umm and patented it in 1986 — said to be the first patent on meat cutting in the world. The Steak-Umm was different from the Vegas Strip in that it was an industrial process: There were many steps to creating a Steak-Umm including molding, freezing, tempering and slicing. Gagliardi went on to earn about 40 other patents on meats, including one for popcorn chicken (which he sold to KFC in the 1990s); he’s still working, at age 82, in his home workshop, slicing up beef and chicken.

Last year, the Patent and Trademark Office in this country approved more than 1,000 patents related to food products. (That might sound like a lot, until you consider it granted a total of 247,000 patents.) Patent officers consider three important criteria: The thing has to be novel, it cannot be an obvious extension of what’s already known, and it has to be useful. Patents, which last for 20 years, protect the invention from anyone who might want to copy it. Some observers have suggested that the Vegas Strip patent application may not meet the non-obvious criterion, because an experienced butcher would likely be able to create the steak once he sees it (which is why no photos of the cut are currently available).

The case for usefulness might be clearer. From the industry’s side, the last few years have seen a peak in the international demand for beef’s most expensive cuts, so selling the less expensive cuts has been the focus for some time. In the case of the Vegas Strip, a steak that’s less costly than a New York Strip, but tastes similar, is a benefit to consumers. The fact that it’s made from meat that would otherwise be destined for the grinder is good news for producers; it raises the value of the carcass. Another useful aspect of the Vegas Strip contributes to its cost efficiency: It doesn’t require aging to be tender, according to Mata.

After a patent is filed, it can take the patent office up to three years to make a decision. Meanwhile, licenses for the Vegas Strip are available, and a couple of suppliers are already fabricating the new steak.



Comments (2) Leave a comment 

Name
e-Mail (required)
Location

Comment:

characters left

felo guerra    
linn, tx  |  October, 24, 2012 at 10:18 AM

does this vegas steak have a special flavor or feature that'll make a bbq guy want to buy it over another steak? or is it a value adding cut that makes better use a few pounds of a carcass than being part of the brisket?

Ken Jones    
London  |  May, 03, 2013 at 01:42 AM

Regarding Utility Patents, (not US Design patents, which are easy to get and get around) you can't patent an idea or a slice of meat, all you can patent is a product or a process which mustn't be 'obvious to somebody skilled in the art' like a butcher. The best cuts of meat are market driven so the only opportunity would be a process different to mince which creates a steak from the parts that are discarded like offal. As these go to pet food and other products the new product would need to sell at a higher price to be worth the trouble of applying for a patent. I would imagine about the only way of getting a patent on a beef would be to create a homogenised product, which is different to a burger. If you liquidized offcuts, congealed the soup into a solid and then sliced it up the PROCESS might be worthy of a patent, however could the product be described as beef? More importantly would anyone buy it? That's the bit that most inventors ignore. If anyone is interested in patenting I'd recommend DIY Patent Online, a cheap Amazon ebook, which tells you what you want to know in words you can understand. They also have a website which is not selling any services, just telling you how to go about patenting internationally without an attorney.


7080 Series Self-propelled Forage Harvesters

ProDrive™ senses which axle has more traction and sends power to that axle. A new faster, more reliable spout turning ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight