The application, if granted, leaves open the possibility that we may one day have to pay a licensing fee to lock lips with the ones we covet.
Don't start worrying yet. Harlequin, which releases 110 novels a month and publishes in 115 countries around the world, said it would keep any patented kisses in the public domain.
"Should this patent be approved and registered by the U.S. Patent Office," the Toronto publisher announced in its seven-page patent application, "we will immediately make the method freely available to all persons everywhere in the interests of enhancing romantic love and generally making the world a better place."
In an interview with AOL News, Michelle Renaud, senior manager of public relations for Harlequin, emphasized that Harlequin hadn't considered charging for kisses. When asked whether the company's stance may one day change, Renaud gave a succinct "No."
The application, filed last week with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, provides a summary of the "invention," as well as six diagrams demonstrating what Harlequin calls the "Essential Romantic Kiss" or "The Kiss."
In a move likely intended to strengthen its case, Harlequin – whose recent titles include "Roughneck Cowboy" and "The Nanny and the CEO" – numbered and titled three steps to carrying out The Kiss.
In the first step, called "The Prelude," kissers "deploy the muscle around the mouth ... to shape their lips in a manner conducive to kissing."
Step 2 involves "The Approach," where couples bring their faces into "close proximity" while Step 3, or "The Seal," occurs when lips touch with "varying degrees of pressure and intensity."
The lips may then "remain attached for an indeterminate period of time," the application noted.
Despite a certain regimentation, Renaud believes The Kiss will reacquaint lovers with the lost art of romance.
"Kissing is a mundane sign of affection these days," she said, "and you don't feel the passion that's needed and the chemistry that's involved in a great kiss. That's why we developed our patent application."
Few legal experts believe, however, that Harlequin will get past first base with the patent office. For one, the application lacks "point of novelty," a legal term that means a claim contains a new or interesting take on an existing invention.
"Based on what I saw, I fail to see what that novelty might be," said Robert Gorman, a New York City patent attorney, in an interview with AOL News. "The application won't go anywhere, but I give them credit for trying. They brought in a draftsman and spent a few thousand dollars to make the attempt look official."
"Put some bells and whistles on it and maybe we can get somewhere," he said.
It's not like Uncle Sam hasn't seen these types of advances before. In 1971, a lothario named William Nutting successfully patented a doll capable of blowing a kiss. Nutting's patent application, like Harlequin's, contained stiff procedural text and rote diagrams demonstrating the action.
With that kind of game, does Harlequin's claim stand a chance?
Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals Improbable Research, a publication that celebrates inane projects in science, medicine and technology, thinks so.
"Harlequin knows what it's doing," Abrahams said via e-mail. "Nothing's more romantic than a seven-page patent application."