Suiter Swantz IP takes a look back at past inventions and inventors with our Patent of the Day.  

On this day in 1966, James Carroll Brown were granted U.S. Patent No. 3,258,347 for EDIBLE PHARMACEUTICAL INKS.

An excerpt from the patent states:

This invention relates to the production of certain ink compositions suitable for marking pharmaceutical tablets. , More specifically, the invention is directed to shellac based ink compositions particularly suitable for printing of ink indicia on pharmaceutical tablets having a wax coated medicinal core and to a process for utilizing said ink compositions.

The importance of providing pharmaceutical tablets with a clearly visible identifying marking to prevent spurious imitations and substitutions is well illustrated by the significant volume of business which has been lost by some manufacturers because of such imitations and substitutions.

For purposes of this invention the coated medicinal core is defined as a medicinal core covered with successive undercoats, smoothing coats, and suitably colored finish coats. The smoothing and finishing coats consist primarily of grossing powders and coating syrups to give the tablet a smooth outer surface which is designated in the pharmaceutical art as a sugar coating.

Frequently, the printing of ink indicia on a sugar-coated tablet is accomplished by applying a confectioner’s shellac coating over the sugar coating and then imprinting on the shellac coating with an ink having a shellac base. Due to the presence of shellac in both the ink and the coat the ink adheres tenaciously to the coat to product an acceptable product. However, the nature of the shellac surface is considered undesirable by many pharmaceutical manufacturers in view of its lack of polish or luster. In addition, because of the tackiness of the shellac coating it tends to stick to the wall of the coating pan during the coating process and to pull off the sugar coating around the medicinal core. Also, the tacky character of shellac coated tablets presents a handling problem. For ex ample, such tablets do not readily flow into and do not readily seat properly in accommodating recesses in the printing machine.

In an effort to combat the aforementioned difficulties many manufacturers have considered it desirable to apply a wax coating, for example of carnauba wax, to each tablet, such coating being capable of taking on a high polish. In this manner the tablet is provide with a very desirable free-sliding or flowing character, and the desired pharmaceutical elegance is imparted to the tablet. However, the wax coating has not proved entirely satisfactory in that conventional shellac-based inks will not readily adhere to the waxy surface and the markings have a tendency to rub off even after drying on the waxed surface.

Accordingly, it is a primary object of the present invention to provide a shellac-based ink composition which does not have the disadvantages of the prior art compositions. Another object of this invention is to provide a shellac based ink composition containing ingredients approved for use in an edible food composition. Still another object of this invention is to provide a shellac-based ink composition which will effectively ad here to a waxed sugar coated pharmaceutical tablet to give a clear and legible marking which cannot be easily obliterated. Yet another object of this invention is to provide a shellac-based ink composition suitable for imprinting on a Wax-coated pharmaceutical tablet and a process for applying an ink indicia to said wax-coated tablet.

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