- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will review a patent held by Impossible Foods involving its plant-based heme ingredient, according to a ruling last week from the the agency’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The panel decided not to review three other Impossible Foods patents challenged by Motif FoodWorks.
- The review is an administrative trial that will examine whether the ideas in the patent can be protected. According to the decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, it determined Motif has a “reasonable likelihood of prevailing” on at least one of the challenged claims.
- This is the latest step in the legal saga between Impossible Foods and Motif FoodWorks. Impossible initially sued Motif in federal court last March, saying Motif’s Hemami ingredient infringed on at least one of its patents.
The decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board furthers the dispute over who can make plant-based heme.
After Impossible sued Motif, the plant-based meat ingredient company responded by asking the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to revoke Impossible’s patents.
This ruling represents the next step in the patent side of the dispute.
Motif launched its Hemami ingredient, which recreates the heme naturally found in animal meat, in late 2021. Motif started out using biotechnology and unconventional research mechanisms to make ingredients for plant-based meat, dairy and eggs that could better mimic the traditional products.
Impossible makes its own plant-based heme, and its signature taste and color are one of the key elements that set its products apart from competitors. Motif’s Hemami was the first widely available ingredient with a similar function.
Since launching Hemami as a standalone ingredient — and after this legal dispute began — Motif has launched finished plant-based meat products for foodservice.
"This is not just a victory for Motif – it's a victory for consumers," Motif CEO Michael Leonard said in a release. "For us, this whole process is about protecting innovation and consumer choice in plant-based foods."
This decision doesn’t mean that Impossible loses its patent. There will be more scrutiny into whether the single patent should have been issued in the U.S. However, in a complaint also filed by Motif, the European Patent Office revoked a similar Impossible patent in the European Union last year.
This isn’t the only U.S. ruling involving patent challenges made by Motif FoodWorks. In addition to the four patent rulings from the board last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s judicial arm ruled against a review of one other Impossible patent last October.
"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,” an Impossible spokesperson said in an email. “This is a major testament to the strength of our patent portfolio and Motif’s repeated failure to avoid accountability for its infringement."
The litigation in federal court, which is also about patents but a completely separate dispute, is still pending.
Still, the court dispute has been messy. In documents unsealed last month, Motif said shortly after the lawsuit was filed that private investigators hired by Impossible came to them falsely claiming to represent potential partners in order to get samples and more information about Hemami.
Impossible told the court these claims were “exaggerated rhetoric.”