Just before Valentine’s Day, Harlequin Books is hoping to obtain a patent on the very foundation of the romantic holiday: the kiss.

The book publisher announced it has submitted a patent application for the “Essential Romantic Kiss” to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  The application serial number is 61/438360, indicating it was filed as a provisional application.

The Harlequin kiss patent application describes its proposed kiss as:

A method is provided for two individuals to reciprocate their romantic feelings toward one another.

During Step 1 (“The Prelude”), the kissers deploy the muscle around the mouth (the orbicularis oris, or “kissing muscle”) to shape their lips in a manner conducive to kissing (i.e. to “pucker the lips”, or “pucker up”).

In Step 2 (“The Approach”), they bring their faces into close proximity and tilt their head in opposite directions.

During Step 3 (“The Seal”), the lips touch with varying degrees of pressure and intensity. The lips remain attached for an indeterminate period of time.

While Step 3 may be considered as completing the method or “sealing” The Kiss, there is an optional Step 4 (“The Embrace”) for those kissers who are caught up in the passion of the moment and thus feel compelled to go beyond Steps 1, 2 and 3.

It involves deploying additional body parts, such as hands or arms, on the neck, shoulders or back of the other kisser, thereby drawing them into an interlocked position.

To find out more about the kiss patent application, I spoke with Michelle Renaud, head of the Preservation of the Kiss office, a “division of Harlequin that exists to celebrate all things related to kissing.”

Michelle Renaud: I’m thrilled to be talking with you.

Patent Baristas: Well, I have to admit I was surprised to hear about the application so I went to your website and downloaded a copy of your patent application.

MR: Yes.

PB: I understand it is a provisional so it doesn’t actually have claims in it.  But, it was fairly complete with drawings and included the various steps to the method.

MR: Oh, great.  I’m glad that you were able to take the time to look at it.  That’s fabulous.

PB: Yeah.  So, I don’t want to go through the legal aspects of it but I’d like to just get the background information on how this came about.

MR: Sure.  Definitely.  Harlequin.  We every year launch our annual romance report.  And that is something that we have been doing for about 22 years now.  It’s usually a magazine that we send out to the media around Valentine’s Day.  And the one moment that Harlequin knows best.  It really is the kiss. That moment’s really the cornerstone of all romance, and really the turning point of a really good story.  At Harlequin, we’ve been doing this for over 60 years, which is really exciting.  We thought, by focusing on the kiss, you know, we would be able to create some excitement and create this website that you were on, which is patentyourkiss.com.

PB: Okay.

MR: In doing that, we thought we were looking at a patent.  It really is kind of fun, you know, a tongue in cheek way to kind of stake ownership of that moment but yet share it with the world and really have some fun with it.  That is what we did through the Harlequin office for the preservation of the kiss and that was kind of our main idea for the program.

PB: Basically, Harlequin has been, we’ll say, in the kiss business for 60 years.

MR: Yes

MR: For over 60 years in North America and everything we do is about romance.  We publish 110 books a month.

PB: Wow.

MR: The majority of those books are focused around romance, and they all have that kiss moment.  We feel that we really know that moment better than anyone else in the world.

PB: Well, I have to admit that I would never have guessed that it was 110 a month.

MR: Yes.

PB: I have a feeling that your target audience is not men.

MR: We do have a lot of men that read our books.  Absolutely.  And they’re probably picking up some really good pointers on how to really treat their girlfriends or wives.

PB: So maybe they just don’t admit it.

MR: Exactly.

MR: Our target audience is definitely women.  And our goal really is to provide really great reading entertainment for women.

PB: Well, I wanted to talk about “the essential romantic kiss.”

MR: Yes.

PB: Obviously, a method.

MR: Yes.  A method.

PB: What I’d like to ask is:  What is new?  You know, for the essential romantic kiss over say all the kisses before like with Katherine Hepburn.

MR: Definitely! I know where you’re coming from.

PB: All those iconic kisses.

MR: Yes, yes.  And we did look at a number of iconic kisses.  What we looked at was the kind of the essential romantic kiss.  It’s that everyday form of affection.  We’re thinking that the kiss has become this kind of mundane sort of sign of affection.  We really wanted to bring the romance back to kissing.  And I think that was really the inspiration behind the patent application.

PB: Okay.  I can understand the impetus, let’s say.  But what I was getting at was:  What part do you think is new?

MR: What do I think is new about this kiss moment?

PB: Yes.

MR: I’m not really quite sure if there is anything that is new.  I’m not sure I may be able to answer that.

PB: Okay.

MR: But I think that if we look at Harlequin, and we look at that kind of kiss moment that’s in our book.  I think that’s where we drew the inspiration from.  I don’t think that we’re trying to say that there is a new kiss out there or what not.  But, you know, it really is kind of that essential kiss and how Harlequin feels that it should take place.

PB: I like how you use scientific terms for the kissing muscle.  Like the orbicularis oris for the mouth.  That was very nice.  And laid it out into the various steps.

MR: Yes.  It was fun.  It was really fun to work on.

PB: So, I would take it that you are probably not going to sue your readers if they actually perform this method.

MR: No.  No.  Absolutely not.  I think our intention is to really, like I said, really bring the romance back to kissing.  And, you know, inspire our readers to kiss more.  Maybe, you know, replicate the kisses that they are reading about.  And really have fun with it.  That was definitely our intention.

PB: I can understand where you are coming from.  I think human touch, in general, is quite important.  Whether it is a parent with a baby or your friends or your significant other. I think there’s been a lot of proven benefits to the whole release of oxytocin.  Right?

MR: I agree.

PB: So, what do you think is next?

MR: You know, right now we are having so much fun watching people have so much fun on our website.  I think there’s almost a thousand kisses in there now.

PB: Wow.

MR: But we’re really seeing that people are liking the tool that we have on our website.  They’re interacting with it and really having an appreciate for, for not only the program, but you know, just being inspired to kind of have that kissing moment around Valentine’s Day.  I think it’s great to see the reaction from readers, even new readers that we’re engaging with the Harlequin brand.

PB: Okay.

MR: So, everything has been great so far.

PB: Well, so I guess you can say that if I’m terming this correctly, the kiss creator.  Sort of proves that new kisses can be developed.  You know.

MR: Exactly.  You know, we’re seeing people go on our website that are recreating their kiss moment be it, you know, on a beach or in Paris or maybe even, you know, dreaming about a kiss moment with, you know, a possible significant other or even a celebrity.  So, you know, definitely lots of really unique kisses and their unique names.  And, it’s been a lot of fun.

PB: Can I ask just one last question:  Are you the inventor on this patent application?

MR: Yes.

PB: How long did it take to come up with the essential romantic kiss.

MR: We actually have been working on this program for several months and every year around Valentine’s Day, like I said, we launch it.  We usually close out kind of the big chunks of the program by the end of March, and then we start thinking about the following year.  So, it’s definitely taken a long time to really get this right and just get the feeling right when it comes to the patent and really to insure that people understood where we were coming from.  We knew that that was really important and something that we took very seriously.

PB: Well, I really appreciate your time.

MR: Okay.  Thank you.

Harlequin has created an online interactive Kiss Creation tool, which allows people to create their own kissing styles.  Renaud said over 1000 kisses have been submitted since the site’s launch, including one by Kim Kardashian labeled “The Kim Kardashian Classic Sneak Kiss!”

I prefer something more like Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famed photograph of “The Kiss”, which captures an unknown sailor planting a surprise kiss on Nurse Edith Shain in Times Square on VJ Day, August 14th, 1945.

Michelle Renaud is Senior Public Relations Manager at Harlequin Enterprises Limited in Toronto, Canada

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