Patent of the month – A barbecue for all seasons

Written by: David Paton | Published:
David Paton, patent attorney at Withers & Rogers

With the cold winter nights upon us, the barbecues we enjoyed last summer seem a long-distant memory. However, thanks to a space-saving innovation from New Zealand's Martin Thompson, our next outdoor-cooked meal could be just around the corner.

As described in the recently-granted UK patent, GB2527560, this innovative barbecue has the dual functionality of a radiant patio heater. It features a telescopic lid that extends upwards to radiate heat from a gas heater, at the perfect height for warming guests.

This means that those planning a barbeque during cooler weather need not buy a separate barbecue and patio heater. Instead, they can save precious space and provide a warm enclosure when the barbecue is fired up.

The device includes many of the features expected of the modern barbecue, such as interchangeable grill sections, gas or charcoal fuel supply, and a hinged lid that protects the grill section.

However, the lid is also detachable from its hinge and features a telescopic support that can be adjusted; allowing it to be raised to just above head height. The lid also includes a gas heater. The shape of the lid helps to direct the heat downwards and outwards; radiating warmth to those gathered around.

On those rare occasions when the British weather shines brightest, the barbecue lid might not be best placed at head height. In this case, it can be reconnected to the hinge joint at the rear of the barbecue until it is needed once again.

This innovative concept is a great example of taking two pieces of technology, often found in close proximity, and combining them in a non-obvious way.

Combinations of this sort are not always simple to patent, as two of the fundamental requirements of a patent are for it, firstly, to be novel and, secondly, for it to involve an inventive step. One example of an 'obvious' invention which was ultimately unable to secure IP protection was a 'sausage-making machine', which combined a well-known mincing machine with a well-known sausage-filling machine. Whilst the juxtaposition of these concepts was determined to be novel by the relevant patent authority, it was not deemed to involve an inventive step. As a result, the concept was unable to obtain patent protection.

However, the combined barbecue and heater demonstrates that widely-known concepts can still be patentable if they solve a technical problem in an inventive manner. In this case, the inventor has maintained the functionality of both concepts by using a telescopic support and a detachable hinge on the lid. He has also found a way to save valuable patio space for entertaining guests.

So, while we might bemoan the cold British weather, this invention means we could be enjoying our next barbecue a little sooner than we thought.

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