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McCain and Simplot in court battle over pre-treatment technology patent

J.R. Simplot and McCain Foods have spent the last few years battling in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho over issues related to – unsurprisingly – potatoes, with each party asserting a design patent related to a spiraled potato, writes Anthony Fuga of Knight and Holland.

However, a recent blog, Fuga reports on the challenge to McCain’s utility patent that is directed to the process of using high-energy electric field technology to pre-treat potatoes (and other vegetables) before cutting and cooking them.

Simplot filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that McCain’s patent is ineligible because it contains an overbroad claim directed to both a natural law and an abstract idea: that vegetables soften when exposed to an electric field.

Simplot argued that vegetables softening (i.e., becoming easier to cut) when exposed to an electric field is a natural law and, therefore, a patent directed to an electric field making vegetables easier to cut is not patent eligible. The court disagreed.

Simplot also argued that the claim is directed to an abstract idea. It reasoned that softening vegetables before cutting and cooking is a vague idea, so there must be some inventive concept for the patent to survive. The court again disagreed. 

Eventually, the court found the asserted claim patent eligible and denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Read the full report on Anthony Fuga’s blog here

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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