Circuit Court Upholds Ruling on Cheese Vat Patent Infringement

August 12, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles - A federal circuit court on Tuesday upheld the verdict in a case between two cheese manufacturers over patent infringement of cheese vat technology, deciding in favor of Tetra Pak Cheese and Powder Systems, Inc.

The ruling, made by a three-judge panel in U.S. Circuit Court in the 7th District, ended a three year battle between Cheese Systems, Inc. and Tetra Pak over elements of the design for large, churning vats to make cheese.

The patent at issue, granted to Tetra Pak in 1999, is U.S. Patent Number 5,985,347, titled “Cheese Processing Vat and Method.”  The vat is designed for large-scale cheese manufacturing, with two large, rotating panels inside which mix and slice the cheese.  While the agitator panels of other cheese vats rotate opposite each other, the ‘347 patent claimed the innovation of panels rotating in the same direction, which leads to a more efficient cheese-making process.

Tetra Pak argued that Cheese System’s vat design infringed on the central elements of its ‘347 patent, and demanded that the company stop use of its infringing product.

Cheese Systems originally brought a complaint against Tetra Pak in 2010 in Federal Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, asking for Tetra Pak’s patent to be invalidated.  Wisconsin-based Cheese Systems argued that Tetra Pak’s patent was obvious in light of prior disclosures.

The presiding judge in this case, Barbara R. Crabb, did not accept these arguments and instead found that Cheese Systems had infringed the patent held by Tetra Pak.  Cheese Systems appealed the decision to U.S. Circuit Court, which again ruled against Cheese Systems.

The Appeals Court also granted a permanent injunction for Cheese Systems’ use of its infringing cheese vat along with its decision to uphold the district court’s decision.

Swiss-based Tetra Pak is an international food packing and processing corporation.  Its founder, Ruben Rausing, was the first to develop a sterile packaging process for foods and liquids.  This process is still in use today, as seen in juice boxes and milk cartons.