August 21, 2015 2:51 pm

There are a variety of items you use on a daily basis which are made by many different companies: toothbrushes from Oral B, Colgate, and Crest, pens from Bic, uni-ball, and Pilot, and toilet paper from Charmin, Scott, and Cottonelle are just a few examples. Many companies make these products because one specific company does not have exclusive rights to these items. They could not obtain a patent for any of these products without making serious, ground-breaking improvements on them. However, you may be surprised; some companies have decided to stake claim on common sense, everyday products or processes and have received unique patents. Here are four strange patents that have been filed in the recent past.

Objects against White Backgrounds in Photography

Have you ever taken a photo of an object in front of a white background to show the features without a distracting background? Maybe you had professional photography taken in front of a white backdrop. In 2014, Amazon patented this common photography technique. Charles Duan explains from an article on ArsTechnica, how the patent is for the particular set up in a photography studio with certain lenses, cameras, and lighting. This unexpected patent is specific to the positioning of the lighting and the attachment of the lights. Although photographers have been using this strategy for years, Amazon included some specific criteria in their patent application which made their studio setup unique, and they were granted the patent.

Carry-out Food Container

Leftovers from the restaurant last night are best the next day, but we wouldn’t be able to keep the delicious food fresh without a carry out container. There are numerous carry out, take out, and to-go boxes with patents but one in particular has a minor addition. Wax paper was added to cover leftover food more effectively and to enhance the appearance when opening the container. The carry-out food container was patented in 2004 and includes a compartment tray for holding each food item, a lid attachment, and wax paper. The reason for this unique patent is that it’s easier to put the condiments and utensils with the meal without them getting lost. Also, wax paper is microwave safe unlike aluminum foil which is often used by restaurants.

Glass Staircase

Apple is known for their innovative products in technology such as the iPod, iPhone, Mac, etc., but what about the unique structures where these products are for sale? Aleksi Tzatzev from Business Insider, states the company claimed a patent for a glass staircase in some of their retail stores including New York and Paris. The staircase was granted patent publication in 2003. Tzatzev touches on more of Apple’s strange patents like the shape and size of the app icon and how the products are displayed in stores, to name a few. Most of Apple’s retail stores have high glass windows and walls, including its Shanghai location which has a spiral staircase that wraps along a glass cylinder leading to the outside. The glass cylinder also has its own patent.

Crustless PB&J

Did your parents cut the crust off of your sandwiches when growing up because you wouldn’t eat it? Smucker’s realized how many people hated the crust of bread and patented the Crustless Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich in 2001. The Smucker’s brand introduced their product, Uncrustables, which is a sealed, crustless peanut butter and jelly pocket. Parents around the world have been making their own versions of crustless PB&Js, but Smucker’s ingredients and the method to put the sandwich together was unique enough for a patent to be granted.

These strange patents are proof of innovation, even if they are just tiny adjustments to inventions and processes already in existence. Whether you are taking a bite of your crustless PB&J sandwich or walking down a flight of glass stairs, you can remember each of these inventions and processes has its own unique patent. By looking around the room you will see different inventions, whether it is simple or complex, and wonder what the story may be behind their patent.

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