Oklahoma State University is apparently attempting to patent a steak. According to a piece by Jacob Goldstein at NPR:

Oklahoma State University… says it has worked with an outside meat expert to discover a new steak. It’s hiding somewhere inside a part of a cow that’s now commonly used for hamburger. The steak has a name — the Vegas Strip Steak (TM) — and a marketing campaign. But, because OSU is still waiting on its patent, they are being cagey about the details. [Researcher Steve] Price explained it to me in broad strokes.

“The patent actually claims the kind of knife strokes that you make in order to create this cut of meat,” he said. “You take this muscle, you make cuts here, here and here and you end up with this Vegas Strip Steak.”

This seems like some pretty obvious rent seeking from a land-grant university dedicated to “promoting human and economic development through the expansion of knowledge and its application.”

The OSU plan for the Vegas Strip, according to Goldstein’s piece, is to “get restaurant chains interested in the steak, and to work with big packing plants to sell the steak to the restaurants. OSU would charge a licensing fee to the packing plant.”

This is stupid but, as a result of the total bizarro-land that is U.S. intellectual property law, it might actually work. According to Matthew Yglesias at Slate:

Their legal case is plausible. They say that “the patent actually claims the kind of knife strokes that you make in order to create this cut of meat.” In other words, they want to patent an algorithm for butchering a cow. And if software and business patents are allowed, then it’s clear that algorithms are exactly the kind of thing the US Patent and Trademark office is prepared to hand out patents for. So some algebra teacher could have gotten rich patenting the FOIL method and just think of the licensing fees that were left on the table by whoever was first to come up with the correct process for parallel parking.

Well, not really, since no one makes any money off parallel parking, but it’s a funny idea. Oklahoma State isn’t actually saying much about what makes their steak different, in part because they’re still waiting on the patent.

Not that it matters much, but it seems pretty disingenuous of the school to call it a Vegas Strip Steak; the meat doesn’t have anything to do with Las Vegas.

If OSU is really going to play fair here it’s best not to name the item after a much more famous city 1200 miles away. Call it a Stillwater Strip Steak and let’s see how well your little invention does.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer