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Cranberry rivals go head to head over patent case

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 04-Dec-2009
Last updated the 07-Dec-2009 at 11:08 GMT

Ocean Spray claims that a federal judge has ruled to allow an independent inspector to check whether rival cranberry company Decas has infringed its patents for producing sweetened dried cranberries (SDC).

The Ocean Spray claim follows a statement from Decas issued on Thursday claiming victory in the two companies’ latest row. While Ocean Spray says it wants to determine whether Decas is infringing its patent rights, Decas has filed a counterclaim that Ocean Spray is trying to monopolize the SDC market. On Tuesday, a judge ruled against Ocean Spray’s request to dismiss Decas’ claims.

By releasing a statement celebrating the judge’s decision, Ocean Spray said that Decas is trying to deflect attention away from the companies’ patent dispute.

Vice president and general counsel at Ocean Spray Rich Stamm said in a statement that Decas “failed to mention” a November 18 hearing in which a judge required Decas to make its plant available for inspection.

Stamm said: “We intentionally did not publicize the outcome of this hearing as our goal is to focus on the central legal question at issue: Does Decas' process infringe on Ocean Spray's patent? In our view, as evidenced by Decas' recent press release, their counterclaim defense strategy is clearly an effort to deflect attention away from the actual patent issue.”

The cranberry giant also accused Decas of refusing to let Ocean Spray inspect its processes on a third party confidential basis.

Decas’ CEO Jeff Carlson denied this allegation. He told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “It is not true that Decas refused inspection. From our standpoint they are our largest competitor and we wanted strict controls…We tried to come to an agreement with Ocean Spray to let an independent third party come and conduct an inspection. We couldn’t reach an agreement on that.”

Stamm said: “Ocean Spray has been asking Decas for nearly 18 months to allow us to inspect Decas' process under a third-party confidential basis in efforts to avoid litigation but to alleviate our suspicion that Decas was violating our patent. Decas continually refused, leaving Ocean Spray no option other than to formally serve the complaint to initiate a court mandated 'discovery' process.”

Decas stridently denies that it has violated any Ocean Spray patents in the production of its sweetened dried cranberries.

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