McDonalds’ patent for its sandwiches

McDonald’s Corporation is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, serving around 64 million customers daily in 119 countries. Headquartered in the United States, the company began in 1940; in 1948 they reorganized their business as a hamburger stand. Businessman Ray Kroc joined the company as a franchise agent in 1955. He subsequently purchased the chain from the McDonald brothers and oversaw its worldwide growth.

On December 21, 2004 McDonald’s filed their initial application for patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It was a 55 page patent claiming the rights to how their sandwiches are made. The burger company says owning the ‘intellectual property rights’ would help its hot deli sandwiches look and taste the same at all of its restaurants.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Lawrence Smith-Higgins of the UK Patent Office said: “McDonald’s or anyone else can’t get retrospective exclusive rights to making a sandwich. They might have a novel device but it could be quite easy for someone to make a sandwich in a similar way without infringing their claims.”

"This is a clear example of intellectual property gone crazy," said Mike Adams, a consumer advocate and critic of overzealous intellectual property claims. "The patent system is broken, and it awards patent protection on far too many things that are obvious to anyone in the relevant industry. “People have been making sandwiches since the invention of bread. This is a process that clearly exists in the public domain,” he said.

McDonald’s said: ‘These applications are not intended to prevent anyone from using previous methods for making sandwiches.’