Fulbright Prevails in Patent Trial for Mars, Incorporated
On March 2, 2005, Fulbright & Jaworski won a jury verdict in California federal district court for Mars, Incorporated after a three-year lawsuit to protect its exclusive patent rights to a special pet food product. The jury rejected the counterclaim challenging the validity of the patent by defendants Del Monte Corp., H.J. Heinz Co., H.J. Heinz Management Co., and found damages of $3.56 million.
Marc L. Delflache
Mars had earlier won a motion for summary judgment on its infringement claims against Del Monte and Heinz. The issue remaining for trial – on the plaintiff's case in chief – was damages on the infringement claims. In addition, Del Monte and Heinz were challenging the validity of the patent.
Handling the matter for Mars as lead counsel were partners Linda Addison and Marc Delflache, senior counsel John Schneider, with support from the Los Angeles office's partners Richard Mainland and Josh Lichtman, administrative director Lynne Stevens, IT manager Paul Halpern and others.
Mars (maker of many popular candies including M&Ms® and Snickers®) sued Heinz and Del Monte for infringement of its U.S. Patent No. 6,312,746. The patent is for a dual-textured animal food product that has a soft inner component surrounded by a harder cereal-based outer shell. The kibble is a key component of Mars' PEDIGREE® Brand Food for Dogs, and WHISKAS® Brand Food for Cats, and TEMPTATIONS® Brand Cat Treats.
The infringing dog and cat food products manufactured by the defendants include Pounce Purr-fections, Pounce Delectables, Meaty Bone Savory Bites, Snausages Scooby Snack Stuffers and Nature's Recipe Treats.
Mars had requested at least $2.2 million dollars in compensatory damages for the patent infringement, including an up-front payment of at least $1.5 million. The jury found the actual damages to be almost twice that amount, awarding a $3 million up-front payment component, making the total damage award approximately $3.6 million. With pre-judgment interest, the final judgment is expected to exceed $4 million.