November 7, 2023
The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to take on a lawsuit by an inventor staking claim in Hormel’s U.S. patent for making precooked bacon and meat. On Monday, SCOTUS denied the petition for a writ of certiorari by David Howard, CEO of HIP, Inc.
In court filings, Howard said after developing a novel continuous process for cooking meat products, he approached Hormel to see if the firm had interest in a new cooking process to improve its microwave-based precooked bacon products. Beginning in July 2007, Howard stated that he disclosed the details of his process to Hormel employees, including the four named as inventors on the ’498 Patent. After that meeting, Howard contends that Hormel made a “scoping visit” to HIP’s predecessor, Unitherm, to "watch his process in operation and taste its results."
In July 2009, Howard said that Hormel accepted his offer to loan the company an infrared oven for preheating. However, Howard contends that after the oven was moved, Hormel ceased sharing information, and he no longer had input into the 2010 application that led to the ’498 Patent issued in 2018.
In 2021, a Delaware district court sided with Howard stating that his contribution to the patent was “not insignificant in quality when measured against the dimension of the full invention” and he should be named as a joint inventor, based on his contribution to the infrared preheating concept.
In their appeal, Hormel contended that the district court erred in holding Howard as a joint inventor of patent because his alleged contribution of preheating with an infrared oven was “well known and part of the state of the art” and was insignificant when measured against the scope of the full invention. The firm also asserted that the court was wrong in finding that HIP met its burden of establishing clear and convincing evidence that Howard is a joint inventor because his testimony was insufficiently corroborated.
The federal district court sided with Hormel stating the evidence illustrates Howard’s alleged contribution was “insignificant in quality” when measured against the dimension of the full invention, and that the patent was mainly focused on microwave ovens, not infrared preheating steps.
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