Sweet & Low
In Sunday's Denver Post, Al Lewis wrote a column about Rich Cohen, the grandson of the inventor of Sweet & Low and his book about his family. The article is a book review of sorts of Cohen's book about his disfunctional family that disinherited his mother and her children. But the point of this post relates not to the topic of the article or the book but rather a particular statement made in the article.
Apparently, Benjamin Eisenstadt, Cohen's grandfather, invented the sugar packet in 1945. According to the article and the book, "Eisenstadt brought the idea to Domino Sugar, which promptly stole it." It is this quote that is the point of my article.
As best I can tell, Mr. Eisenstadt never patented the sugar packet and as such had no legal claim to the intellectual property related to the sugar packet. Simply, Domino Sugar could not have stolen his idea, because Mr. Eisenstadt did not own it. The only effective way to own the sugar packet invention would have been to patent it. Since he did not, once he disclosed it to the public he dedicated the invention to the public (the one year grace period notwithstanding). Domino Sugar could not have stolen the sugar packet. More correctly stated, Mr. Eisenstadt freely gave the invention to Domino Sugar.
The point of this post is instructive: think long and hard about approaching a company with your invention if you have not taken the proper steps to protect yourself. Learn from Mr. Eisenstadt's example. Her certainly did. He patented the formula for Sweet & Low and the result was the Sweet & Low fortune that ultimately prompted Mr. Cohen to write his tell all book. Hopefully, when you make your riches, your family will not fall apart the way Mr. Eisenstadt's family did.