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IP Blog / A feast of Thanksgiving IP

A feast of Thanksgiving IP

At first glance, Intellectual Property (IP) and the Thanksgiving holiday might not seem like the most obvious pairing. But with all the family get-togethers, fallings-out and makings-up, it is the ideal occasion to spread one's imaginative wings when it comes to culinary delights and party entertainment. With such creative juices flowing, some of the quirkiest inventions and activities are sure to result.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the things we are grateful for and share that celebration with loved ones. All of us in the IP world can be thankful for the many protections afforded across the globe to trademarks, patents, copyrights, trade secrets and more, so we take a moment to savor a few choice examples. Tuck into our menu below!

Automatic mashed potato system

These words are music to the ears of anyone and everyone who has ever been stuck in front of the sink with a saucepan full of spuds, lots of cold water and a peeler that always seems to find your knuckles. Thanks to this 2002 invention, the hassle, tedium and sprained wrists have been taken out of making creamy, fluffy mashed potatoes. Simply place the potatoes and some water into the heating container to allow them to cook. Later, the water is automatically drained, and optional seasoning is added like a sprinkle of holiday magic. Once all that is done, the machine sets to work, mashing away.

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This electric system promises a quick side dish or fluffy topping for your Thanksgiving feast, but its heritage stretches way back. William Allan Jackson, for one, was granted patent No. 1,023,317 on April 16, 1912, for an "implement for mashing potatoes, &c." Rudimentary as it might have been, it became a cornerstone product for the A&J Manufacturing Company. (Image source: Google Patents)

Just one little note: You had better like skins in your mash; otherwise, you will still have to bring out the peeler and get your fingers numb. But look on the bright side – the skins are very good for you!

Turkey leg holder

This invention is as bizarre as it is self-explanatory. Goodbye messy, awkward aluminum foil at theme parks, rodeos and your in-laws'. When you are presented with a piece of fowl fit for a caveman, you no longer have to risk getting your bone-club hand greasy with this nifty device. The turkey drumstick slots snuggly into the openable housing (handy for chomping on the go), and can then be rotated within its protective container as your teeth get to work on the tasty treat inside.

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Your family and friends will be bowled over when you arrive for Thanksgiving dinner, ready to divvy up the bird without dirtying your mitts. And with this neat gadget in hand, even holding a hot dog at the ball game will be a breeze! (Image source: Google Patents)

Whether you want to use it in its original bird-leg-shaped form or in one of "the wide variety of configurations and arrangements of embodiments," as the patent description puts it, this invention has got you and your drumsticks covered.

Thanksgiving embossed insert for baking pan

Says it all, really. But we think this is the perfect opportunity to impress upon you that not all patents are for inventions. Design patents have their place at the (dinner) table, too. Also, while Thanksgiving might not be a thing in Europe, IP protection for "the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and / or materials of [a] product itself and / or its ornamentation" certainly is. Unregistered Community designs (UCDs) and registered Community designs (RCDs) in the EU provide much of the same coverage as their equivalents in the United States. A U.S. design patent lasts for 15 years but requires no maintenance fees, whereas an RCD can last up to 25 years, provided renewal payments are made every five years. UCDs last three years from the date they are made public and cannot be renewed.

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After extracting your freshly prepared side from your automatic mashed potato system, why not add a little presentational flair by bringing it to the table with a cheerful message? It works just as well with cakes! (Image source: Google Patents)

With all that in mind, maybe it is time to give those crazy design concepts consigned to the attic a second thought.

Cooking up an IP storm

Speaking of the more inspired fruits of one's imagination, what IP can shield your special cranberry sauce recipe from envious eyes and mouths? You might think copyrights would do the trick, but the reality is not so simple. The United States Copyright Office spells out the obituary for your kitchen innovations in ominous black and white: "A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law." But all is not lost. If copyrighting is the route you wish to take, you need to describe your recipe so that its written expression – and any accompanying pictures – constitutes original creative work.

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Unelaborative recipes join address books and fonts as articles that cannot be copyrighted under U.S. law. And, no, you cannot copyright your sighting of Elvis, either – with or without UFOs.

On the other hand, if you have a recipe you want to keep completely under wraps, a trade secret is probably the way to go.

IP, IP and away!

Thanksgiving and parades go together like turkey and gravy or pumpkin pie and whipped cream. So it is little wonder that the annual spectacle in New York City sponsored by department store chain Macey's has become almost synonymous with the beginning of the festive season. First held in 1924, the menagerie of ornery zoo animals was quickly replaced by a less hungry, if equally perilous, platoon of inflatable IP-protected characters – all properly licensed, of course. But it is the name of the event itself we are interested in: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a registered trademark (or, more specifically, a service mark) of Federated Department Stores, Inc. since 1998. So beneath the giant Pilgrim-hat-wearing turkey, keep an eye out for the little "R" inside a circle symbol.

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The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (then called Macy's Christmas Parade) delighted 10,000 onlookers lining the streets of New York. Today, the event is an annual tradition that draws more than three million people to the city and enchants another 50 million television viewers across the country.

Never mind all the costumes, inflatables, music and dance, the real cherry on top of the Thanksgiving parade is the knowledge that proper IP rights are in place to keep the floats afloat.

So there you have it – a full spread of IP dishes to make this Thanksgiving one to remember. Whether you are relishing a feast with friends and family or sitting back to watch the festivities, we hope this healthy dose of festive fun has put a smile on your face – and all without adding a single inch to your waistline. The IP experts at Dennemeyer wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

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