The title of U.S. Patent No. 5,205,473 (the '473 patent in patent speak) is "Recyclable corrugated beverage container and holder." If you've ever been to Starbucks, the drawing on the first page of the '473 patent probably looks familiar.
I actually have one of these sitting on my desk right now. It's the corrugated, brown cardboard sleeve wrapped around my venti, no fat, no water chai latte. It insulates my hand from the hot liquid inside and allows me to walk from the barista to my car without a wince or painful grimace.
It's a good idea and whoever came up with it got a patent. I know that because the number, "U.S. Patent No. 5,205,473" is printed in neat, black text right on the sleeve. (There's actually a second patent number as well.) The reason the sleeve on my coffee cup, and most other patented products, have patent numbers printed on them is something patent lawyers call "constructive notice."
Under the law, the public is deemed to have constructive notice that something is patented if that something has a patent number on it. The idea behind the law apparently is that if one sees a patent number, one has the ability to look that patent up, read it, and maybe even understand what it says. For the corrugated sleeve, it was simple enough for me--albeit a little geeky--to take a look at the '473 patent and understand how the sleeve works to make the heat from my latte more bearable.
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