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 highlights issues to be aware of when prosecuting a child patent application.