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Showing posts from June, 2018

The Importance of Pursuing Patents, even when money is tight

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Household staples are often overlooked as materials which can be improved upon.  Consumers typically use their dish racks, knife blocks, mops, and dish rags without further consideration.  However, Aaron Krause, founder of Scrub Daddy, created a multi-million dollar company by hand-washing his dishes and adding a smile to the sponge.
            Scrub Daddy has burgeoned into a wildly successful company, which may be in large part to Krause’s patent pursuits.  His first patent pursuit included a design patent (USD671515S1) filed in 2007, five years before he appeared on Shark Tank.  The benefits of the design patent include its lower cost compared to a utility patent but potentially shorter shelf-life (15 years).  In hindsight, this was a brilliant way for Krause to affordably protect the Scrub Daddy while suiting potential investors.  Krause received a $200,000 offer on Shark Tank, which is a great rate of return when compared to the cost of a design patent.  The filing fee for K…

IP Prep Before a Big Event

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This is it—the big industry event you have been waiting for all year. You paid admission, you have a booth, prototypes, and all the swag anyone could ask for. You have told everyone and their mother to come see you pitch your new product. You cannot wait!
            Before posting your product bio on the event website and loading up the company van to get going, make sure to touch base with an IP attorney. Those prototypes, the product bio, and your big public pitch all put your intellectual property (IP) into the public sphere, impacting options for IP protection.
            With several exciting events coming up this summer, such as IFT18: A Matter of Science + Food in July, we will be tailoring several posts to IP preparation before public product launches. So stay tuned for later discussion on what to know before you go with regards to industry event product launches.

Food and Beverage IP Still Highly Competitive Part II

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There are many cases where a company may choose to file continuation applications. For example, in the food and beverage industry, a parent application may be directed towards a system for packaging food, and then a continuation application may have coverage on a method for packaging the food. This approach may have advantages for obtaining patent coverage on various aspects of an invention, while maintaining the benefit of an earlier filing date.
            As shown in the recent Nestle USA, INC. v. STEUBEN FOODS, INC. case, it is important to keep in mind that continuation applications may be subject to similar interpretation as related patent applications.
            In particular, a decision was recently rendered in favor of Nestlé with regards to an aseptic food packaging patent to Steuben Foods, Inc. (U.S. Pat. No. 6,481,468 B1).
            One of the main points that won the recent ‘468 case for Nestlé was an assertion that the Board erroneously relitigated the term “asepti…

Food and Beverage IP Still Highly Competitive Part I

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A decision was recently issued at the Federal circuit level in a case between Nestlé Healthcare Nutrition, Inc. (Appellant) v. Steuben Foods, Inc. (Appellee). In the case, Nestlé attempted to invalidate a patent to Steuben Foods, Inc. directed towards systems for aseptic packaging of food products.
            The arguments submitted by Nestlé primarily asserted that Steuben Foods, Inc. improperly relitigated issues directed to the meaning of “aseptic” that were resolved in related patents.
            Ultimately, the decision upon appeal was in favor of Nestlé to remand and carry out further proceedings, as collateral estoppel should have precluded relitigatation of the term “aseptic”. Therefore, it is still to be determined whether or not Steuben Foods, Inc. will be able to retain their patent rights.
            In any event, this case demonstrates that patents for innovations in the food and beverage industry are still highly competitive. Moreover, as discussed below, this case …

Pabst and MillerCoors Taking It to Trial This Fall

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Pabst Brewing and MillerCoors have been in a legal dispute over an impending 2020 contract renewal and will go to trial this November according to CNBC.
            MillerCoors has brewed for Pabst under contract for many years, making well-known Pabst beers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).  However, MillerCoors may terminate their contract with Pabst in 2020, citing potential capacity issues.
            Pabst has a lot to lose and has already begun to fight hard against contract termination by MillerCoors. Among the potential losses for Pabst are intellectual property rights. Specifically, the trademark system is a use it or lose it system in the U.S., and Pabst could be at risk of losing trademark protection if marks go unused for too long.
            That being the case, if the contract with MillerCoors is terminated, Pabst may be in the expensive situation of quickly procuring a brewing facility, both to meet sales orders and to protect their trademark rights. Further complicat…

Coca-Cola Re-Imagines the Life Cycle of Citrus Products

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Re-purposing by-products is common in the food and beverage industry to both reduce waste and create additional value added products.
            However, Coca-Cola has gone one step further, recognizing that a citrus processing by-product may be used to make animal feed, and that a fiber by-product from making the animal feed may be extracted for use in paper products. Basically, Coca-Cola obtained a patent (U.S. Pat. No. 9,909,260) directed towards a method for using by-products of goods made from by-products.
            It goes to show that, with a little creativity, the life cycle of raw materials may extend far beyond their original use.

From Brewers to Bakers

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Finding creative outlets for food waste streams has spurred innovation for repurposing by-products in ways that make both environmental and business sense in recent years.
            Take the brewing industry, for example. For every gallon of beer, approximately 10 pounds of spent grain is generated. This means that in Oregon alone, about 190 million pounds of spent grain is generated a year.
            Previously, spent grain had primarily been used for agricultural purposes. However, as efforts have been increased to find more uses for by-products, upcycled spent grain has been used to make anything from beer packaging to dog treats. One company in the business of upcycled spent grain is Rise Products, Inc., a company which uses spent grain to produce nutritious flour that is both protein and fiber rich.
            Rise will be pitching their business at the upcoming IFT18 event that is being hosted this July in Chicago. One of the selling points of Rise? Their patent…

Small-Batch House Roast, Please

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Several challenges have surfaced as coffee shops try to cater to consumer interest in small-batch house roasted coffee, and many of these challenges are tied to the roasting equipment.
            Conventional coffee roasters are heated by natural gas and are built to roast large batches of coffee. However, these conventional coffee roasters can be problematic for small coffee shops due to both the cost of initially purchasing the roasting machine and due to building constraints, as natural gas lines, substantial floor space, and venting are required in buildings housing these conventional roasting machines.
             Recognizing these issues, several small-scale electric coffee roasters have been coming to market. For example, both Bellwether Coffee and Carbine Coffee showed ventless electric coffee roasters at the Specialty Coffee Expo at the end of April. These small-scale electric coffee roasters are trying to change the game for your local coffee shop by making in-house roast…