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Posted by Kevin

“Pretty sure stank is patented,” my friend Amy (who is also a lawyer) wrote in an email the other day, probably not realizing I would take that statement as a challenge (but possibly realizing I would).

As is so often the case, first we have to define our terms, and as usual that means I am off to the OED instead of whatever I’m supposed to be reading—more specifically, the stuff I actually get paid to read.

“Stank,” of course, as a noun, is Scottish for “pond or pool,” also “a ditch … of slowly moving water, a moat.” See, e.g. J. Fastolf, Paston Lett. & Papers (1450) (“Ser John Buk physshed my stankys at Dedham and holp brake my damme,” which sounds dirty but isn’t); Chaucer, Parson’s Tale 841 (1386) (describing Hell as “a stank brennynge of fyr and of Brymston”). The word can also mean a dam or floodgate; that is, the structure that creates a stank.

Reading on, I see there are other meanings of “stank,” which seem to have arisen much more recently.

For example, beginning in the 1970s, according to the OED, some U.S. persons began to use the adjective “stanky” to describe things with an unpleasant smell, the usage probably deriving from a “colloquial pronunciation of ‘stinky.'” See, e.g.Jrnl. Amer. Folklore 85:139 (1972) (“The mummy was so long and lanky, and so motherf*cken stanky.”) This was, for whatever reason, later co-opted by the world of popular music to mean something that was “passionate, forceful and uncompromising in style or performance; having a driving beat or rhythm; extremely funky.” See, e.g.Option (Mar. 1993) (stating that James Brown and George Clinton “plumbed the stankiest depths of funk”); URB (Dec. 1996) (opining that “[a] stanky bass groove levels your body with supreme boombasticness”).

During roughly the same time period, “stanky” evolved into the noun form, “stank,” used to mean the unpleasant smell itself, or, in the second sense described above, the thing one might add to something else in order to create the desired stanky quality. See, e.g.New York Times (Sept. 2000) (“Mr. Porter … asks if he might funk it up a bit. ‘Put a stank on it'”); Mixmag (Oct. 2011) (“Osiris boasted two bass players for extra stank.”).1

Now that we know what stank is, we can try to determine whether it has been patented. We should start by asking whether “stank” could be patented. Well, under U.S. law, only a “new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” can be patented. It has to be something tangible, not an abstract idea, suggestion or theory. A musical stank, therefore, could not be patented, no matter how boombastic.

But what about the other kind of stank? What if you’ve developed an especially notable stank and would like to patent that? Can you patent an odor? Well . . . yes. An odor may seem intangible (or not, depending on who you’re trapped in the elevator with), but it is a property of matter. There is a specific patent classification for “perfume compositions,” and as the New York Times reported in 2008, inventors can and have patented previously unknown scent molecules. “There are no new colors to see and very few new sounds,” the Times quoted an expert as saying, “but we are actually creating new, unique smells no one has ever smelled before.” Or so he believes, never having been on a camping trip with my uncle.

Actually, the smells mentioned by the Times were said to be pleasant, but as I was informed by Clint Newton, a partner in our firm’s intellectual-property group, there is no reason a patentable smell would have to be pleasant. (He then informed me he would no longer be taking my calls.) Could an unpleasant smell be useful? Yep. That’s why you can smell natural gas if a line breaks—the gas doesn’t have a smell, so they add mercaptan, which stinks. I guess I can’t really think of another situation in which that’d be useful, or a reason to come up with another bad odor. But legally, such a thing could be patented.

But has one been? Well, really comprehensive patent searches cost money, and like I said, Clint is no longer taking my calls. If you run “stank” through the US PTO search engine, you get 220 hits, but as far as I could tell, these all resulted from some misreading of the word “tank” or because the patent cited an inventor with the unfortunate name of “Stank.” Stank itself I could not find. So unless and until Amy comes up with evidence to the contrary, I’m going to say her guess that “stank is patented” was wrong.

There is yet a further twist, though. As it happens, Amy was referring not just to some random stank, but to “pork stank,” which according to the internet is a mixture of spices used as a rub when barbecuing pork:

Why was she referring to pork stank? Long story. Could this stank be patented? Well, I think the answer is yes. It’s a “composition of matter,” and I found lots of patents related to some form of seasoning or another, like No. 9,622,501, a replacement for “salted rice malt.” It would have to be sufficiently novel, and there is certainly more than one supplier of “pork stank” out there already, but assuming a pork-stank inventor could get over that hurdle, fine.

But with the term “pork stank,” at least when capitalized as above, more likely we’re talking about trademark protection, not a patent. You could, of course, trademark the term “Pork Stank”—but that’s not what you care about, is it? You want to know whether you could trademark a smell, pork-related or otherwise. Well, again, the answer is yes. It’s not easy, but (as Clint confirmed, when pestered) a smell can be trademarked, and there are in fact about a dozen “scent marks.” The one you are most likely to have smelled, without knowing it, is the “flowery musk” scent Verizon successfully registered in 2014. (If you think its stores have a distinctive smell, you’re not wrong.) The difficulty, though, is that not just any stank would do—to be trademarked, it’d have to be not just distinctive, but so distinctive that it has come to be associated with your particular product.

If you’ve got one like that, Clint could probably help you get it trademarked. (You probably shouldn’t mention my name, though.)

1There is, it appears, yet another meaning of “stank” that is not relevant here and that I choose not to address.

Win some ...

17/10/17 20:47
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 Handsome men in ugly outfits. 

Paging @copperbadge

“I’m just so proud of everyone, Chris.”



“It’s just…pride isn’t the word I’d use.”

“Yeah, it’s true I’m…I’m also very jealous.”

“….it’s good to admit these things, Robert.”

“Do you think Hiddleston would lend me that jacket? It would go so well with Jeremy’s pants, and he promised me those.”

[RDJ Advises Chris Evans on his Life Choices]

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Like literally the only reason we didn’t go extinct is because we are aggressively social creatures who community organized and helped each other when faced with disasters that drove other species over the brink. 

 (Like we’re so aggressively social that we looked at APEX PREDATORS and went ‘they look soft! Friend????’)

(The answer was yes because wolves are also aggressively social and they adopted the strange tall not-wolves just as eagerly.)

humans @ wolves: holy shit these things are so cute i wonder if they’ll let us pet them?

wolves @ humans: holy shit these things are so cute i wonder if they’ll pet us?

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So, the first thing to understand here is vocabulary.

  • HSA - Health Savings Account
  • HMO - Health Maintenance Organization
  • Premium - The monthly amount you pay to the health insurance company to have coverage
  • Deductible - The cumulative amount you pay out of pocket before your health insurance starts contributing. Having a lower deductible usually means having a higher monthly premium.

A HMO is a type of insurance plan. Some others are PPOs (Preferred Provider Organization) and EPOs (Exclusive Provider Organization). HMOs are focused on preventative care, tend to have lower deductibles, and tend to have higher premiums.

A HSA is a tax-advantaged medical savings account - you put money into this savings account and then you can use that money for qualified medical expenses. It is not an insurance plan. An HSA is used in conjunction with a high deductible health plan (HDHP) and you must have a HDHP to be eligible for an HSA.

A HDHP is a type of catastrophic coverage. These plans have lower premiums than a normal health insurance policy but extremely high deductibles. Someone who is in good health and isn’t accident-prone (someone who isn’t anticipating using their health insurance much) might favor this kind of policy because they haven’t historically needed to use it much, or they may qualify for a hardship exemption due to their income. Basically, this is a worst-case-scenario policy.

This is a good time to get into something about health insurance I’m going to be saying a lot soon; you need to choose the coverage that’s best for you. If I had to choose between an HMO and an HDHP, I would absolutely choose the HMO (and if I had to choose between an HMO and a PPO, I choose the PPO) but that’s not what’s feasible or makes sense for other people. I can’t really tell you which one’s better because I’m not you. 

Some things to take into consideration are: How much do you plan on using your insurance? Do you have regular doctors appointments or medications? What kind of copay or coinsurance can you comfortably afford, and how much can you comfortably afford to pay monthly? If you’re purchasing your plan through healthcare.gov, how much of a premium tax credit are you eligible for and how much of that do you want to use?

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@hogwartsschoolnet the hogwarts challenge- 2/8 students/ alumni 

requested by @charlotteweasley

f r e d  w e a s l e y

and peeves 

whom harry had never seen take an order from a student before 

swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute 

as fred and george wheeled about to tumultuous applause from the students below 

and sped out of the open front doors into the glorious sunset 

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Mansplaining, for the NYT today. Shhhhhhh.

there’s no words but you know exactly whats goin on

the article includes the term “manologue” which i think is one of the best terms invented this decade


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