Campbell files soup dispenser design patents in Fed Circ dispute


Campbell’s Condensed Soup Cream of Chicken is stored on a shelf at a grocery store in Phoenix, Arizona on February 22, 2010. REUTERS / Joshua Lott

  • The PTAB has twice rejected Campbell’s challenges to Gamon Plus’ design patents
  • The board had ruled that Gamon’s patents were not obvious based on commercial success
  • Fed Circ Says Success Is Not Enough With Patents

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(Reuters) – Campbell Soup Co on Thursday convinced the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to strike down the soup can dispenser design patents of a former contractor that the Trial Commission and patent appeal had twice confirmed.

The commercial success of Gamon Plus Inc’s distributors and other secondary considerations of non-obviousness were not sufficient to show that the patents were valid, U.S. Circuit Chief Justice Kimberly Moore wrote for a three-judge panel.

A separate and unprecedented decision from Thursday confirmed the validity of a Gamon utility patent covering its soup dispensers against another challenge from Campbell.

Gamon’s attorney, Andrew Tiajoloff of Tiajoloff & Kelly, said in an email that they were happy with the utility patent decision but “very disappointed” with the design patent decision.

Campbell and his attorney Tracy Quinn of Holland & Knight did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Martin Pavane of Davis, an attorney for the appellant Trinity Manufacturing, whose Campbell distributors passed by and were charged. for infringing patents. .

Gamon sold its iQ Maximizer “gravity feed” soup can dispenser to Campbell for nearly $ 31 million from 2002 to 2009, and Campbell has installed them in nearly 17,000 stores. Campbell attributed the increase in sales during this period to the Maximizer, noting a “billboard effect” from part of the dispenser displaying a label.

Campbell began purchasing Trinity gravity feed dispensers in 2008, and Gamon sued the two companies and others for infringing their patents in 2015, in a case still pending. Campbell and Trinity asked the PTAB to invalidate the two design patents at issue in this case, and the board found them valid in 2017.

The PTAB upheld the patents for the second time after the Federal Circuit remanded the litigation in 2019. Moore, joined by United States Circuit Court justices Sharon Prost and Kara Stoll, overturned the council ruling in Thursday’s previous ruling, finding the patents invalid based on an earlier display rack design patent that made Gamon obvious.

The board found that Gamon’s overall designs were similar to the prior art patent, but also that Gamon’s patents were not obvious, largely based on the commercial success of the iQ Maximizer. But Moore said there was no connection between Gamon’s patents and the commercial success of the Maximizer because the product included “important unclaimed functional elements” that were not in its patents.

Moore rejected the board’s conclusion that the Maximizer was “coextensive” with Gamon’s design patents because features the product did not include were “irrelevant to ornamental design.”

“This circular reasoning reflects a misunderstanding of the law,” Moore said. “In determining co-extensibility, the question is not whether the unclaimed features are insignificant to the ornamental design of a product. Rather, the question is whether the unclaimed features are ‘insignificant’, period. . “

Gamon also failed to demonstrate that the success of the Maximizer was based on the unique characteristics of his invention.

“Instead, he presented evidence that simply combines commercial success and praise with aspects of the label area that were already present in the prior art,” said Gamon.

The evidence that Trinity copied the designs was also not enough to overcome the “strong obviousness,” Moore said.

The cases are Campbell Soup Co v. Gamon Plus Inc, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Nos.20-2344 and 20-2322.

For Campbell: Tracy Quinn of Holland & Knight

For Trinity: Martin Pavane of Davis

For Gamon: Andrew Tiajoloff from Tiajoloff & Kelly

Read more:

Corn Soup: Fed Circ Relaunches Campbell’s Design Patent Challenge

Fed Circuit scores mixed victory in second leg of soup display patent battle

Blake brittain

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Contact him at [email protected]

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