The Impossible vs. Motif legal tussle is heating up.
Last month, Impossible Foods filed a lawsuit against Motif Foodworks, claiming the company’s HEMAMI protein derived from precision fermentation infringed on Impossible’s patent for making plant-based burgers containing 0.1% to 5% heme protein.
In response, Motif filed a petition with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) to invalidate Impossible’s patent at the center of the lawsuit against them. The petition, known in legalese as an “inter partes review” (“IPR”), could allow Motif to ask a panel of judges from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to review the Impossible Foods’ patent for to beef replicas.
Impossible’s lawsuit claims that Motif has been able to gain an understanding of Impossible’s process through information in the public domain, which then helped it in developing its HEMAMI protein. The lawsuit also calls out claims by Motif and parent company Ginkgo that its novel protein can essentially act as a replacement for Impossible’s proprietary heme.
Speaking about the petition, a Motif spokesperson said that the “ingredients that Impossible claims to have “discovered” have been sold in everyday food products for decades and continue to be sold today. Impossible did not invent heme – it exists in animal muscle tissues and plants that people eat every day. And meat substitutes have been around for centuries, there is nothing new about them.”
The move to invalidate the patent could pose a serious threat to Impossible, which has hung its hat for much of the success of its beef analog around the realistic taste profile created by its proprietary heme technology.
The Motif vs. Impossible legal battle isn’t the only fight over intellectual property in the plant-based meat market. Last year, Meati accused Better Meat Co. of IP theft, a claim which Better says is an attempt to bully a less-funded rival. The emergence of these types of legal skirmishes over IP signifies the market is entering a more competitive phase as companies pursue similar and related innovations designed to engineer better-tasting meat analogs.
You can see the petition filed by Motif below.