Top 5 Patentable Food Technologies
Top 5 Patentable Food Technologies
Food and food technology are both patentable. Patenting a new invention is one way for a firm to stay ahead of competitors. Many inventors never consider patenting food technology. Many wonder whether food is patentable at all. To be clear, anything new and not obvious is potentially patentable. Including food and all of the technology relating to food. For example, methods of preparing food, equipment, software, and novel compositions. Below are five current examples of exciting technologies and innovations within the food industry.
1. Patenting Sous Vide Technology
Sous vide is a French technique where cooking is done through the use of an immersion circulator. Food is placed into a plastic bag, air is removed, and placed into a water bath at a precise temperature. The immersion circulator keeps the water at a precise temperature gently cooking the food all the way through.
The technology is expensive and was relegated mostly to restaurants. However, a number of retail products have become available (e.g., Joule, Anova, and Sansaire) that are relatively affordable and growing in popularity.
While the general technology is not new, improvements made to the technology are new. These new advances are potentially patentable, as long as the advances are new and not obvious.
2. Patenting Smaller Versions of Large Scale Equipment
Larger scale, industrial equipment is often very expensive. Using this technology for producing foods on a smaller scale for the average cook is often cost prohibitive. Improving equipment for cost effectiveness is patentable.
For example, a conche (Indi Chocolate) is a machine that distributes cocoa butter within chocolate to develop flavor and texture. The process is so important, that many chocolate manufactures keep their conching process secret. See https://indichocolate.com/collections/chocolate-making-machines/products/wonder-grinder-model-2
Products like these may seem niche, but there is a growing trend amidst home cooks and chefs wanting to have control over the quality of their ingredients. Improvements to existing technology may focus on either home or restaurant use. Many home cooks may not want to make their own chocolate, but smaller restaurant, cafes, or bakeries are potential users.
3. Patenting Phone Apps and Devices for Food Preparation
Within the context of food technology, smartphones are used for setting a timer, for grocery shopping, and organizing recipes. But smartphones are rarely for preparing food.
For example, a thermometer that plugs into your phone. A growing trend is integrating smartphone technology into appliances. Samsung has a new oven connecting to a smartphone allowing controlling temperature, measuring food weight, and calculating calories.
4. Patenting Gluten Free Products and Compositions
Gluten free diets are a growing trend. Most grocery stores have specific gluten free sections. Maintaining gluten free diet is difficult because gluten is found in most foods. For example, wheat is used as part of the fermentation process for soy sauce. Many foods contain flour as a thickening agent and for maintaining food’s structure. Cross contamination becomes a risk for naturally gluten free foods exposed to gluten comprising foods.
Gluten free food technology could especially be valuable in the area of baking because gluten provides pastries, breads, and pizzas their structure. Gluten free technology is patentable by patenting the chemical composition. The chemical makeup of these products must be unique, i.e., never disclosed before.
5. Patenting Novel Food Compositions, Such as Aquafaba
Vegan diets are not just for ethical reasons but also for food sustainability reasons. Maintaining a vegan diet is difficult because animal based products are used in many foods. Eggs have many chemical properties that are hard to find in other ingredients. Some attempts for replicating these chemical properties are using various starches or other hard to find substitutes. But a recent discovery could change everything.
Aquafaba – the liquid from cooking legumes, like chickpeas – has similar properties as egg whites. Experts believe that the protein and starches in Aquafaba mimic the proteins in egg whites. For example, whipping Aquafaba to make meringue. Developing Aquafaba technology could benefit millions of vegans by producing protein compositions. Advances in this area is patentable. New forms of Aquafaba could give rise to patentable compositions of matter.
Conclusion – Food and Food Technology is Patentable
Food technology is an enormous and growing industry. Even more remarkable–this industry is just beginning to tap into the opportunities available for protecting and monetizing technology by using the patent system Patents provide a powerful tool for those creating new and not obvious inventions.
This post was written by Alex Kong, JD. Mr. Kong is an associate attorney at Chadeayne LLC with a background in chemistry and specialty in food technologies.