Although patenting a steak might seem unusual or even impossible, some precedent exists for the idea of protecting certain cuts of meat. Srividhya Ragavan, a patent law expert at the University of Oklahoma School of Law, said because OSU is seeking to patent a set of knife strokes used to produce the steak, the university's patent application stands a good chance of being approved.
U.S. patent law doesn't allow naturally occurring products to be patented. But if a patent seeker can show that the product has been sufficiently isolated, Ragavan said, the patent is more likely to be granted.
Ragavan compared OSU's patent application to another application at the center of a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The court heard a challenge Monday against patents for two genes held by Myriad Genetics, a Salt Lake City-based biotech company.
The company argued its patents are valid because the company's researchers isolated the human genes, which they say play a role in the development of breast cancer.
Ragavan said she thinks the outcome of the Myriad Genetics case will likely affect the outcome of OSU's steak patent. The question at the center of the two cases is the same, she said — when a naturally occurring material is isolated from its natural source, is it patentable? And how isolated does that material have to be?
It will now be up to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to decide if OSU has met that threshold.