Motif FoodWorks Scores Potential Win in Patent Battle Against Impossible Foods
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Motif FoodWorks’ patent challenge to Impossible Foods over the heme protein used in both of their vegan meat products will get a patent review, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced earlier this month.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has dealt what could be a significant blow to Bay Area vegan meat producer Impossible Foods, as its Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) announced the initiation of inter partes review (IPR) of Patent 9,943,096 B2. Impossible Foods faces a potential disruption in its claim to one of its pivotal patents in a process that could take about a year.
Boston-based Motif FoodWorks raised the appeal after Impossible filed a federal lawsuit. The plant-based food giant claimed that Motif infringed on its patent when using heme to create its vegan meat substitute using a similar technology.
Administrative Patent Judge Donna M. Praiss stated in the PTAB’s ruling that Motif “has demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of prevailing with respect to at least one claim of the ’096 patent, and we institute inter partes review of all claims and all grounds asserted in the petition.”
The patent under examination is titled “Methods and Compositions for Affecting the Flavor and Aroma Profile of Consumables.” It targets an improved imitation of meat’s flavors and aromas, particularly those perceived during or after cooking.
“We are pleased with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision to institute inter partes review (IPR) for Patent 9,943,096 B2, finding that Motif has shown a reasonable likelihood we will prevail,” Michael Leonard, CEO of Motif FoodWorks, said in a statement. “Statistics show the PTAB invalidates one or more claims in 80 percent of the patents that reach a final decision in IPR, so we look forward to seeing this process play out.”
According to Leonard, this is more than just a corporate win for Motif. “This is not just a victory for Motif – it’s a victory for consumers,” Leonard said. “For us, this whole process is about protecting innovation and consumer choice in plant-based foods.”
Impossible’s patent challenges
The news is the second significant blow to Impossible Foods’ dominance in the use of heme, a protein found in the soy plant root. Impossible uses it to impart meaty texture and flavor to its plant-based meat. The European Patent Office recently rescinded an E.U. patent held by Impossible Foods. Concurrently, the lawsuit against Motif remains ongoing in the federal district court in Delaware.
Impossible’s heme protein is analogous to soy leghemoglobin found in nitrogen-fixing plants like soy. Motif’s heme protein, Hemami, is identical to bovine myoglobin, found in cow muscle tissue.
Motif counters Impossible’s claims, arguing these ingredients, which have been used for decades to create the flavor and aroma of meat and its substitutes, cannot be patented by Impossible Foods.
“Impossible is wasting resources, creativity, and opportunities through a failing litigation strategy,” Leonard noted. “The company seems more concerned with securing monopoly power over a protein than with growing this sector.”
“Since our founding in 2018, Motif has reinvented plant-based meat, making it better tasting, more nutritious and sustainable,” Leonard added. “Impossible is determined to stop that innovation – hurting consumers, our industry and, ultimately, our planet. We will continue to fight Impossible’s aggressive actions to limit competition and are gratified that the PTAB found merit in our position.”
An Impossible Foods spokesperson sent Green Queen the following statement in response to news of the ruling: “We’re pleased with the patent office’s outright rejection of four out of Motif’s five IPR petitions for review of our patents – and we’re confident that we will prevail on the fifth when it is fully considered. This is a major testament to the strength of our patent portfolio and Motif’s repeated failure to avoid accountability for its infringement.”
This article has been updated on 27 June 5:30PM to include a statement from Impossible Foods.