Heinz ketchup is being sued for patent-infringement for the flexible condiment package for ketchup, known as “Dip & Squeeze.” In a suit filed in August in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Scott White claims he had a “flash of inspiration” after too many ketchup spills at the drive-through. He came up with the idea of a flexible condiment package that would fit in a car’s drink holder and allow people to “choose between dipping finger foods and squeezing condiments onto sandwiches or other foods,” he claims in his complaint.
White’s design is not identical to Heinz’s ketchup bottle-shaped ‘Dip & Squeeze’ package. The basis of White’s lawsuit focuses on the element of his patent relating to the removable cover. The package allows the cover to be totally removed from the wide end of the container to access the wide end—e.g. for dipping—as well as removable from the narrow end to squirt or squeeze a condiment from the container.
White filed for a patent in 2005 and trademarked the name “CondiCup,” which he claims is the basis for the Dip & Squeeze packets used by Heinz. White claims that in 2006 he emailed an executive at Heinz after learning about packaging problems the company was having because he “instantly recognized an opportunity to market his invention to a potential client in need of a new condiment container.”
Heinz came out with the packets in 2011. Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said, “Heinz worked for years to develop its patented dual-function Dip & Squeeze package. Heinz will defend its position and demonstrate that the plaintiff’s allegations are groundless and without merit.”
The attorneys for White said that “the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has already weighed in on this and issued the patent to Mr. White. That is significant. We seek to enforce it against those who are infringing. We believe Heinz to be infringing. ”
What is interesting about this case is that it is rare for an individual inventor to sue a major company over patent infringement. It is more time-consuming and costly than the more common copyright and trademark infringement cases. It will be interesting to see this case play out. Will Heinz offer the little guy a decent size settlement offer or will it actually go to trial? Only time will tell.
After a few years of reexamination all claims were cancelled for the patent. According to the Chicago Tribune “certain claims of White’s patent were declared “unpatentable as anticipated or obvious” in that re-examination. White appealed the decision. And on Friday (February 9, 2016), he suffered another major setback when federal judges affirmed the patent office’s decision to cancel the patent. I could find nothing that shows this case went any further.
|Dec 18, 2012||RR||Request for reexamination filed||
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|Jan 28, 2016||FPAY||Fee payment||
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|Aug 30, 2016||FPB1||Reexamination decision cancelled all claims||
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