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Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich (PBJ or PB&J) is a lunch staple for North American children.

The recipe is as simple as the name -- one slice of bread spread with peanut butter, the other spread with jelly (traditionally grape-flavored), jam, marmalade, or preserves. Because the peanut butter will not slide or drip off from the bread when it is put together with the jelly slice, even a child can master its preparation.

The origin of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich probably dates to the early years of the 20th century. Peanut butter was first widely introduced in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition although it had been sold as a medical nutritional supplement in Saint Louis for about 15 years.

PB&J sandwiches are also popular because they can be kept for relatively long periods without refrigeration (unlike, for example, a ham and cheese with mayonnaise).

The United States Department of Defense is researching ways of preserving a PB&J for up to 3 years for its combat troops in the field. Previously, peanut butter and jelly has been available in the military instant food Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) for many years. However, it is very difficult to preserve bread for so many years.


Days before Christmas, on December 21, 1999, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded Menusaver, Inc. a patent for its invention of "sealed crustless sandwich" (No. 6,004,596). Basically, it is the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich (PB&J) enjoyed by school kids of the United States throughout the 20th century. Menusaver, owned by Smucker's, began sending letters to other PB&J manufacturers and urged them to cease patent infringement.

The first claim of Menusaver's patent reads:

  1. A sealed crustless sandwich, comprising:
  • a first bread layer having a first perimeter surface coplanar to a contact surface;
  • at least one filling of an edible food juxtaposed to said contact surface;
  • a second bread layer juxtaposed to said at least one filling opposite of said first bread layer, wherein said second bread layer includes a second perimeter surface similar to said first perimeter surface;
  • a crimped edge directly between said first perimeter surface and said second perimeter surface for sealing said at least one filling between said first bread layer and said second bread layer; wherein a crust portion of said first bread layer and said second bread layer has been removed.

In plain English, what this invention described, is nothing but a sealed, crustless sandwich, which has at least one filling -- just a plain jelly sandwich. In the communications between the patent examiner and applicants, the examiner rejected this application as obvious at first, but Menusaver argued that the "crimped edge" makes a difference between this invention and all prior sandwiches. Therefore the patent was awarded. However, many intellectual property experts take it as a joke.

Currently, Smucker's is selling the patented sandwiches under the "Incredible Uncrustables®" trademark. As of September 2004, despite of a lawsuit to challenge the validity of said patent, this patent remains effective.

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