Branded snack titan Frito-Lay may appeal the year-long patent row it lost with private label specialist Ralcorp over use of ‘bowl’ shaped tortilla snacks.
Following a two week trial at US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Sherman, a jury in March sided with Ralcorp and its subsidiary Medallion Foods.
It found that the private label specialist did not infringe Frito-Lay trade dress or patents for Tostitos Scoops! with its BOWLZ corn chips.
Frito-Lay spokesperson Chris Kuechenmeister told BakeryandSnacks.com: “Frito-Lay is disappointed with the jury’s verdict, but committed to continuing innovation for our consumers and protecting our intellectual property rights.”
“The company is reviewing its options for post-trial motions and appeal,” he added.
During the trial Ralcorp attacked the validity of Frito-Lay’s trade dress but this was rejected by the court. Ralcorp/Medallion also dropped all challenges to the validity of Frito-Lay’s patent on the first day of the trial.
“As a result, Frito-Lay’s trade dress and patent rights remain valid and available for Frito-Lay to enforce if others infringe them,” Kuechenmeister said.
Private label v brands
In an emailed statement, Ralcorp said: “We believe private brands offer a strong value to consumers, and we are delighted to bring terrific choice to shoppers. We will continue to develop and make distinctive, high quality food like this chip.”
Kuechenmeister suggested that the jury’s conclusion that the tortilla chips were not the same simply proved that Frito-Lay’s Tostitos Scoops! were superior to Medallion’s BOWLZ corn chips.
“The jury agreed with defendants’ [Ralcorp’s] own argument that their product is not comparable to the design of the great Tostitos SCOOPS! products that tens of millions of Americans have come to love.”
Lengthy patent dispute…
Frito-Lay's initial action back in February 2012 stated Medallion’s private label product BOWLZ corn chips packaged for Walmart had a ‘nearly identical’ shape to its Tostitos Scoops!
Frito-Lay said Medallion had infringed a Frito-Lay trademark covering the shape of its branded tortilla chip and also its patent that covers the manufacturing process of Tostitos Scoops! It also alleged that Medallion had misappropriated trade secrets.