2,000 patents have been granted for shaped pasta

Dan sez, "Macaroni and cheese seems like a pretty docile product -- I mean, it's just pasta and orange powder in a box. But Kraft and others use the fun macaroni shapes to help market the products, and to protect their marketing tool, they often seek patents for their shapes. Yes, patents. And... they get them. A Google Patent Search shows about 2,000 patents for shaped pasta."

Cooked to Perfection (Thanks, Dan!)


  1. So I looked at the patents, expecting they were actually for the machines/extruders/dies used to make the pasta shapes… but no, just the pasta shapes themselves.  Which seems incredibly odd.

  2. I’ve recently invented something and have been performing research into patentability and patent protection. What they have secured on the pasta shapes would be a design patent which can also protect things like a car fender. A patent on the machine for creating the pasta would be a utility patent. From the USPTO:

    * Utility Patent- Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing ++, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the PTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as “patents for invention.”

    * Design Patent- Issued for a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture, it permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the design for a period of fourteen years from the date of patent grant. Design patents are not subject to the payment of maintenance fees.

  3. There’s a difference before design patents (like D333546 “Santa Shaped Pasta”) and process/invention patents (like 4693900 “Shaped Pasta Products”, which describes a method of making single-serving bricks (“shapes”) of precooked vacuum-packed pasta for quick preparation and serving at pubs to tourists, not pasta shapes themselves).

    Design Patents act like trade-marks: they reserve a particular specific visual appearance to the patent holder, but don’t restrict similar, but different, designs from being made.

    D333546 doesn’t say you can’t make a pasta shaped like Santa Claus, just that you can’t make one which looks like Kraft’s drawing (at least before 2005).  There are lots of way to create Santa shaped pasta which doesn’t violate the patent (in fact, when I read the patent title, I thought of a completely different Santa shape).

    On the other hand, if you want to create a quick-serve brick of pre-cooked pasta, you’ll have to do it differently than specified in 4693900.

    1. Spot on, except that 4693900 expired back in 2004. Make as many quick-serve bricks of pre-cooked pasta as you like!

  4. From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_patent

    Design patents, cover the ornamental aspects of functional items from being infringed. One does not have to show that the infringing item was copied from the original. Thus a design that was arrived at independently can still infringe a design patent.

    Many objects can be covered by both copyrights and design patents.

    1. Ahh, the 14 states of America that matter.

      (Yes, deliberately trolling. I don’t even know which states most of them are.)

        1. Somehow I first read that as just “Washington” and so wrote the rest of this post.

          The rest (Left-to-right, top-top-bottom): Tanadakotyoming, Minnesconsin, Michegdianapennsylvohikentginiajerseywaryland, California, Nevada, Colorado, Wyomtanakota, Minnesconsin, Nabransas, Iollisouri, New Arizoxico, Texahoma, Arkansippiana, Tennebamalinida. Since it’s a pasta of the contiguous United States, they left out Hawaii, Alaska, and Utah.

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