Mediation fails in lawsuit alleging Heinz stole idea for Dip & Squeeze; case is ‘groundless’ says Heinz
Plaintiff David Wawrzynski claims that he presented his idea for a dual-opening packet dubbed ‘the Little Dipper’ to Heinz in April 2008, and was asked to develop samples and marketing ideas for focus groups, but that communications “mysteriously and abruptly" stopped in October 2009. In December 2009, he received a letter from Heinz’s attorneys informing him that the company was not interested in his ideas.
Two months later, Heinz unveiled the Dip & Squeeze pack, which Wawrzynski alleged used his ideas by allowing users to dip food directly into it or tear off a small corner to squeeze out the ketchup. Heinz vigorously rejected his claims.
Judge: This is a matter for a jury to decide
The two sides went into mediation on January 14 after a Pennsylvania federal court denied Heinz’s request for a summary judgment in the case, which has been dragging on for more than four years.
In an order dated January 7, US district judge Arthur J. Schwab noted that although Heinz presented evidence showing that it had started working on a dual-function condiment container before the April 2008 meeting, Wawrzynski had also provided evidence suggesting that Heinz had not hit upon a winning concept.
“Given the evidence presented by both parties to this lawsuit,” added Schwab, “whether … the plaintiff’s ideas were novel and concrete are questions for the jury.”
Heinz: Lawsuit is groundless and has no legal merit
Wawrzynski owns a 1997 patent for a condiment packet that allows users to dip food into it. From that idea, he developed a “separate and distinct” condiment packet that he called the Little Dipper, which allowed users to either dip food into it or squeeze out the contents.
From a legal perspective, he is not alleging patent infringement, but breach of implied contract and unjust enrichment, noting that if Heinz used his design and/or his marketing materials, he should be “paid for his efforts”.
However, Heinz SVP corporate and government affairs Michael Mullen told FoodNavigator-USA that Heinz “continues to believe that the lawsuit filed by Mr. Wawrzynski is groundless and has no legal merit”.
The case is Wawrzynski v. H.J. Heinz Co., No. 11-1098 in the US district court for the western district of Pennsylvania.
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