Obscure Patent: Lasagna

Free-standing lasagna product
US Patent No. 5,939,113 [ PDF ] [ HTML ]
Issued August 17, 1999

This obscure patent is a recipe for lasagna. Yes, lasagna was patented on August 17, 1999. Truthfully, that over exaggerates the situation somewhat, but really only slightly. It is more accurate to say that this particular lasagna recipe was patented less than four years ago. Still, with all the cookbooks available I would have thought that pretty much any lasagna recipe would be either anticipated or obvious. This recipe is rather unique though. If you follow the recipe you can cook the lasagna in 30 minutes rather than 45 minutes for traditional lasagna. You can also cook it at 500-550 degrees rather than the conventional 350. Finally, you can forego the lasagna pan. Yes, this recipe does not require a pan. Just put the lasagna right in the oven with no pan! So if you are adventurous enough to try pan-less lasagna you might be a patent infringer!

As best as I can tell, this recipe for lasagna is patentable because it calls for cooking the product fast, at a high temperature and and without a baking pan. Apparently one is to par back the product in the pan first so that the pasta bottom and sides will hold the ingredients together when one then takes the lasagna out of the pan and places the “free standing” lasagna into the oven at a temperature of between 500 and 550 degrees. Having cooked lasagna several times myself I can appreciate the problems with the prior art recipes (for example that the center of the lasagna is sometimes cold, and the cheese filling is sometimes “runny with a soupy texture”). The burning question I have in the back of my mind, however, is who would try this? I don’t mind experimenting in the kitchen, but putting lasagna into an oven without a pan just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. In patent terms I guess I am questioning whether this invention actually works, which raises questions of utilit and enablement. Notice, however, that in order to get to the utility/enablement question one must necessarily jump right over the novelty and obviousness questions, almost as if they are not there.

The patent Abstract summarizes the invention as follows:

Disclosed is a fast cooking pasta product, which has no pastry components, but which has a bottom layer of pasta which is crisp and chewy and one or more intermediate layers of pasta which have a soft and moist and/or al dente texture. The product is made with the various layers having a moisture content controlled within established limits. The pasta product of the present invention, which is preferably round in shape, may be cooked quickly by subjecting it to temperatures in excess of 550.degree. F. to achieve the desired textures without burning the product.

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