Not a new story, but new to me: Oklahoma State University says it has been awarded patent as well as trademark protection on what is called the Vegas Strip Steak, a part of the cow previously consigned to ground beef and other humble uses. [John Klein, Tulsa World last October; Drovers, John Ewoldt, Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 2012]
Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman wrote at Freakonomics in 2012:
There’s no way OSU could patent the steak itself. The steak is just a piece of a cow. It is, in other words, a product of nature, which cannot be patented.
Wisely, OSU’s patent apparently isn’t on the steak itself, but on the knife cuts necessary to extract the steak. But that approach is dubious as well. Once you know where the steak is, the cuts necessary to get at it may be obvious to a skilled butcher. Things that are obvious cannot be patented.
The Patent and Trademark Office presumably accepted the methods for producing the cut as other than obvious. More on patented meat items from Article One Partners.