Mark Doutt, Sr. Manager, Packaging Engineer, is one of the inventors noted on an Apple design patent for a 'Container' that was published by the U.S. Patent Office (USPTO) back in December 2016. Unlike "patent applications," design patents that are published by USPTO don't reveal pertinent information about a particular design. All we get are simple set of patent figures as noted below. Who could have ever guessed it was for a Pizza Container?
When the design patent surfaced in December I couldn't figure out what the heck it was for and decided to pass covering it. Who could have dreamt it was a Pizza Container from Apple? It was highlighted in a Wired Magazine yesterday in context with a Pizza Container.
The Wired report noted that "Apple's answer is that the perfection here will inspire its workforce to match that effort in the products they create, that the environment itself is meant to motivate engineers, designers, and even café managers to aspire for ever-higher levels of quality and innovation. Francesco Longoni, the maestro of the Apple Park café, helped Apple patent a box that will keep to-go pizzas from getting soggy."
Apple didn't take Assignment of the Container Patent
While Apple took assignment of the 'Design Patent' for a 'Container', they didn't take assignment of the original patent application 20120024859 that was published back in 2012 describing the 'Container.' The patent was published with just the two inventors as noted below. The patent was actually filed back in 2010.
The summary of this invention in-part by the two Apple engineers states the following:
"A molded fiber container suitable for containing a food item includes a base having a plurality of ridges integrated with an interior surface of the base. When the food item is placed on at least some of the plurality of ridges, a gap is formed between the food item and the interior surface of the base, the gap assisting in thermally isolating the food item and allowing moisture expelled from the food item to be transported away from the food item. The container also includes a lid having a plurality of openings arranged in accordance with at least some of the plurality of ridges. The lid also including a moisture channeling feature integrally formed in the lid, the moisture channeling feature cooperating with at least some of the plurality of openings and the gap to provide a path by which at least some of the moisture expelled from the food item is transported out of the container and into an external environment.
A container includes at least a base portion. The base portion includes a a bottom surface that includes concentric ridges that provide structural support for the container and elevates a food item from the bottom surface forming a gap. The base portion also includes a sidewall integrally formed with the bottom surface, the sidewall including an integrated sidewall feature arranged to provide structural support for the container. The container includes a lid portion. The lid portion including a top surface that includes first integrated top feature co-operating with the integrated bottom feature and the integrated support feature to provide structural support for the container. The lid further includes a second integrated top feature that includes apertures that allow an outflow of air from within the container to the external environment. A hinge assembly integrally formed with a first section of the sidewall for pivotally connecting the base portion to the lid portion includes a first hinge portion integrally formed with the base portion, a second hinge portion integrally formed with the lid portion, and a flexure between first and second hinge portion that allows pivoting of the second hinge portion about the first hinge portion. A locking mechanism that includes a first portion integrally formed with a second section of the sidewall different from the first section, and a second portion integrally formed with a section of the lid portion. The first and second portions of the locking mechanism are co-operatively shaped so that they interlock wherein in a locking configuration, the locking mechanism secures the lid and the base portion.
A method of forming a molded fiber container suitable for containing a food item can be performed by providing a fiber slurry, providing a mold having a shape in the form of the container, conformally applying the fiber slurry to the mold, wherein the conformally applied fiber slurry takes on essentially the shape of the container, curing the fiber slurry, and obtaining the molded fiber container by separating the mold and the cured fiber slurry."
Without taking assignment of the patent means that USPTO never published it under Apple Patents for the day. This is how Apple flies under the radar with important patents. We can't cover a patent that doesn't list Apple as the assignee. This is a classic example of this tactic applied by Apple legal.
Analysts over the years have dreamt of an Apple Café where fans could gather. Now with Apple introducing 'Today at Apple' with new classes available, perhaps the next feature to follow is being able to grab a pizza while taking a class. Who could have seen that one coming? And yes, I'm joking … or maybe not.