BOSTON — Motif FoodWorks is challenging the validity of Impossible Foods’ patent for a heme-containing meat alternative.
Impossible Foods launched its plant-based burger containing yeast-derived heme in 2016 and received a patent for it in 2020. Touted as a key ingredient for mimicking animal protein, heme imparts flavor and a meaty color when combined with other ingredients.
In March, the company filed a lawsuit alleging Motif FoodWorks infringed its patent with Hemami, a yeast-derived heme protein for use in plant-based meat substitutes, which became commercially available for a large-scale distribution at the end of last year. Specifically, Impossible Foods cited its patent for a “beef replica product” that contains, among other things, “a muscle replica containing between 0.1% and 5% heme-containing protein.”
Now, Motif FoodWorks is fighting back, alleging Impossible Foods should never have gotten the patent in the first place.
In a petition requesting a review of the patent, Motif FoodWorks identified relevant patents and literature that were public prior to the earliest date Impossible Foods claims to have discovered its invention. The ingredient Impossible Foods claims to have discovered has been sold in food products for decades, the petition claims, arguing that the inclusion of a heme protein in a meat replacement product is unpatentable.
The petition also states that Impossible Food’s ingredient heme is identical to soy lehemoglobin, which is found in plants, while Motif FoodWork’s ingredient Hemami is identical to bovine myoglobin, which is found in tissue. muscle of cows.
Motive FoodWorks plans to file a motion asking the district court where Impossible Foods filed its lawsuit to stay the litigation pending action by the patent office.
“Impossible’s claims are a legally and factually baseless attempt to stifle innovation and limit consumer choice to preserve their own profits,” a spokesperson for Motif FoodWorks said. “We are confident that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will agree with our view that the patent should never have issued and will revoke it. Our industry should work together to develop the category to plants for the greater good… Competition is healthy and it should be played out in the marketplace, not in the courts.
A spokesperson for Impossible Foods said Food Industry News the company is confident in the strength of its patent.
“Motif’s stunt is a baseless and meritless attempt to distract from the fact that they have infringed our patent and are illegally using our technology to grow their business,” the spokesperson said. “Furthermore, Motif’s misleading assertion that bovine myoglobin is fundamentally different from Impossible Foods’ heme protein is irrelevant and does not change the fact that they infringed.”