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McDonald's Seeks Patents on Sandwich Making

If McDonald's gets its way, breaking out the mayo to garnish that favorite sandwich might be more than unhealthy. It could also violate a patent.

The fast-food giant has submitted patent applications in the U.S. and Europe for the "method and apparatus for making a sandwich."

The restaurant chain wants exclusive rights to certain ways of making specific sandwiches and hamburgers, maybe the same ones millions of Americans make at home everyday. With the goal of keeping their speedy-preparation methods out of the hands of their competition, the company may not realize what this means to the average Joe who packs a lunchbox everyday.

Contained in the 55 page application are instructions for various sandwich types, including a "Method of Making Various Toasted Deli-Style Sandwiches." These include the proper order of adding garnishes, the preferred way to heat the "filling" (meats and cheeses), and the specifics of how such "components" are added to bread.

McDonald's (MCD) provides a list of components, but specifies that it's not exhaustive.

The "apparatus" cited in the application is probably of less relevance to the average sandwich-maker. But for the fast-food chain, the "sandwich assembly tool" offers two benefits: Speed and uniform appearance. The tool, with its "crowns" and "ridges" will allow restaurants to produce sandwiches more quickly and efficiently, and to "provide consistent sandwich quality-and appearance."

Click here for a diagram of the device.

There's no mention of taste, of course.

So what does all of this really mean for the homemade sandwich connoisseur? Probably not much.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, Lawrence Smith-Higgins of the UK Patent Office said: "McDonald's or anyone else can't get retrospective exclusive rights to making a sandwich. They might have a novel device but it could be quite easy for someone to make a sandwich in a similar way without infringing their claims."