Patenting Beer Apparatus
Patenting Beer Apparatus
We recently posted articles about opportunities for patenting new beer varieties and new methods of making beer. A brewer could also patent a new beer apparatus. In the rapidly evolving art of craft brewing, artisans are constantly seeking out new ways to make and use beer. Sometimes, these pursuits lead to inventing new devices, i.e., beer apparatus.
For example, the real time hopping technique (see patenting methods of making beer) gave rise to a new beer apparatus, the Organoleptic Hops Transducer, more affectionately called “Randall the Enamel Animal.” This new device is considered to be the world’s first commercial hops bong. It is a cylinder stuffed with fresh hop leaves. Using the device infuses hops into the beer as the beer is being poured. According to Sam Calagione (owner of the Dogfish Brewery), “Randall is basically a glorified pool filter.” Nevertheless, at the time it was invented, Randall was a revolutionary new piece of beer apparatus. New machines, like Randall, are patentable. Likewise, improvement to the original concept may give rise to patentable subject matter.
Randall the Enamel Animal Illustrates an Innovative Beer Apparatus
The Randall device is a sophisticated filter system that allows the user to run draft beer through a chamber filled with solid matter, for example hops, herbs, or fruit. The beer acts as a solvent for some of the natural flavor molecules, extracting the flavor from whatever solid matter the user adds to the chamber.
Dogfish Head developed the first Randall in 2002 as a secret weapon for competing in The Lupulin Slam beer festival. Randall’s debut was a huge success. Immediately after disclosing the invention, fellow beer geeks and brewers asked the Dogfish brewers to build Randalls for them – so they did. They began selling their beer apparatus invention.
One persistent problem with the original Randall device was it’s tendency to create foam as the beer was poured. To solve this problem, subsequent versions improved on the design. According to Mr. Calagione, “we spent many, many hours of time and effort to come up with newer and improved versions of Randall.”
As a result of their diligence, Dogfish arrived at a Randall 3.0 design. Randal 3.0 makes several improvements to existing designs. In particular, it addresses the excessive foaming problems encountered by earlier devices. Randall 3.0 was also designed to be more user-friendly. According to their webpage, here’s how it works:
- Beer enters the infusing chamber from the bottom, maximizing beer-hop contact and forcing foamy beer to exit at the top.
- Automatic chamber vents eliminate vapor-locking and maximize beer-hops contact.
- “Defoaming” chamber provides both space and time for foamy beer to settle.
- Adjustable faucet balances between different beer types or short-draw/long-draw draft systems.
- Ice chamber keeps beer cold between pours.
- Draft dispensing components eliminate those unexpected beer showers.
Opportunities for Patenting Beer Apparatus
The above description of Randall shows how Dogfish Head’s ingenuity pushed the craft brewing industry forward. Version 1 of the Randall device pioneered a new technique for adding natural flavors to beer during the serving process. Subsequent versions of the device made improvements on that concept, solving problems with earlier versions.
Each time the inventors made a new and better device, they could have claimed their invention in a patent application. Based on the information provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the inventors did not pursue patent protection. By not filing a patent application within one year of disclosing the invention, the inventors appear to have dedicated their Randall line of beer apparatus to the public. Nevertheless, the conception and evolution of Randall the Enamel Animal illustrates how craft brewers are an incredibly innovative crowd.