Special Guest Interview: A Small Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Problem


We have with us today Small Bakery Minister & Chief Cookie Negotiator to discuss the role of intellectual property rights in dessert transfer.  Thank you for joining us at Green Patent Blog SBM&CCN.  Tell us about your bakery.

SBM&CCN:  Our bakery is very small and has limited resources.  We don’t have enough food and our customers are starving.  We need to provide our customers with chocolate chip cookies.

Ed.:  Go on.

SBM&CCN:  Well, as you know, more than 80% of the patents on chocolate chips are owned by the big chocolate chip companies.  These patents drive up the price of chocolate chips.  As a result, our bakery cannot afford to buy chocolate chips to make the chocolate chip cookies we need to feed our customers.

Ed.:  How can the chocolate chip industry and the small bakeries work together to solve this problem?

SBM&CCN:  There are a number of ways.  For example, we have proposed some kind of chocolate chip patent pooling or sharing arrangement whereby small bakeries like ours can have free access to critical chocolate chips and related proprietary processes.  We have also proposed compulsory licensing of chocolate chip patents to force the price of chocolate chips down to levels our bakery can afford so we can make the chocolate chip cookies we need.

Ed.:  I understand there are competing cookie varieties available such as oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, sugar, snickerdoodle, and a certain creme-filled sandwich cookie, to name a few.  I  would expect this intra-cookie competition to keep the price of chocolate chips at a reasonable level.

SBM&CCN:  Our bakery cannot afford chocolate chips due to the anti-competitive patent practices of big chocolate chip companies. 

Ed.:  What about inter-dessert competition from other tasty treats such as cupcakes, brownies, blondies, muffins, doughnuts, pastries, and dessert breads? 

SBM&CCN:  What about it?

Ed.:  The availability of alternative treats should make chocolate chip cookies affordable, and you could provide these additional dessert options to your customers.  Besides, many of these older desserts are off-patent.

SBM&CCN:  The big bakeries’ long history of dominating and ravaging the world’s resources has left bakeries like ours disproportionately suffering the devastating effects of global hunger.  Chocolate chip patents are a barrier to transfer of necessary hunger-mediation solutions such as chocolate chip cookies.

Ed.:  Aside from patent pooling or compulsory licensing, do you see any other ways to break down that barrier?

SBM&CCN:  Yes, we have proposed other policies such as excluding chocolate chips from patent protection, substantially reducing the terms of patents that cover chocolate chips, and exempting the smallest bakeries in the world from chocolate chip patents.

Ed.:  Interesting proposals, but I suspect the chocolate chip companies would object.  Have there been other cases where small eateries like yours have broken patents due to an urgent need for a patented product?

SBM&CCN:  Oh yes, there is precedent for these actions.  In the 1990’s, when our customers were suffering from severe sleepiness due to a shortage of coffee beans, our country broke the patent on coffee beans.

Ed.:  Did you say “the” patent?

SBM&CCN:  Yes, Coffee Conglomerate Inc. owned a blocking patent that covered coffee beans.  And providing access to coffee for our customers effectively solved our customer sleepiness problem.

Ed.:  If the chocolate chip industry were willing to adopt some of your proposed policies to weaken or eliminate chocolate chip patents, and free or very cheap chocolate chips started flowing into your bakery, what would happen then?

SBM&CCN:  What do you mean?  Of course, if that happened we would make chocolate chip cookies to feed our customers.

Ed.:  Does your bakery have staff with the know-how, skills and training necessary to bake chocolate chip cookies?

SBM&CCN:  Unfortunately not.  Our bakery’s educational and training institutions are understaffed and poorly equipped.  

Ed.:  Does your bakery have flour, sugar, eggs and butter to prepare the batter for the chocolate chip cookies?

SBM&CCN:  As I said before, the big bakeries have plundered and ravaged this planet and hoarded all the resources. 

Ed.:  Does your bakery have working ovens to bake the cookies?

SBM&CCN:  Our bakery lacks certain critical infrastructure.  The big bakeries must provide our bakery with aid and assistance including the essential ingredients and equipment.

Ed.:  Does your bakery have a patent system?

SBM&CCN:  No, we are a very small bakery.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.