Earlier this month, Impossible Foods filed a complaint alleging patent infringement against competitor Motif FoodWorks, Inc., alleging that its products infringed one of its patents for containing the molecule heme, used in the creation of their plant-based foods.
Impossible Foods, owner of the IMPOSSIBLE™ brand of plant-based foods designed to recreate the experience of meat, received US patent no. 10,863,761 (“the ‘761 patent”) for “Methods and Compositions for Consumables.” According to Impossible Foods, heme is “the molecule that gives meat its bloody taste when raw and creates the intense, meaty flavors and aromas when it’s cooked.”
One independent claim in the ‘761 patent is directed to “a beef replica product, comprising a) a muscle replica comprising 0.1-0.5% of a heme-containing protein...” Impossible Food alleges that the FoodWorks’ ingredient “hemami” contains heme, and thus infringes its patent. FoodWorks responded, calling this lawsuit “nothing more than a baseless attempt by Impossible Foods to stifle competition.”
It is important to be aware of patent claim coverage owned by competitors. Understanding the coverage of patent rights in your industry may have implications on how you describe and present your product, whether or not a product infringes on a competitor’s patent.
For example, compare the “heme-containing protein” of the ‘761 patent, with the statement from Foodworks’ website, noted in the Complaint, and describing its ingredient hemami as “tast[ing] and smell[ing] like meat because it uses the same naturally occurring heme protein.”