The ongoing, multi-year, multi-patent infringement legal battle Perfect Company brought against Adaptics Ltd, maker of the Drop cooking system, will be heading to federal court this summer. This next phase of the lawsuit comes after the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denied institution of Inter Partes Review. Perfect announced the decision in a press release yesterday.
Without getting too far into the legal weeds, an Inter Partes Review (IPR) is:
“… a trial proceeding conducted at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to review the patentability of one or more claims of an issued patent.” (via Smith & Hopen, U.S. registered patent attorneys)
Basically, it was Drop’s last chance to keep this lawsuit, which started in 2014, from going to trial. This IPR denial was over Perfect’s Patent 9,772,217, and follows a previous legal win for Perfect over its Patent 8,829,365. With both patents upheld by the USPTO board, the lawsuit moves on to trial in federal court in Tacoma, WA from June 3 – 6, 2019.
At its center, the dispute is over patents around the use of smart scales for weighing ingredients that communicate with apps for guided cooking. Perfect Company products include: Perfect Drink app-controlled bartending system, Perfect Bake app-controlled baking system and Perfect Kitchen PRO app-controlled smart kitchen system. The company also licenses out its technology for products include the Vitamix Perfect Blend and the NutriBullet Balance.
Drop started out in the hardware space, making its own connected cooking scale, but later abandonded that that in favor of integrating its software platform into the likes of GE Appliances, LG, Thermomix and Kenwood.
I spoke with Perfect Company CEO, Michael Wallace yesterday about the IPR denial, and asked him what the end goal of the lawsuit is. “What we’re really doing is protecting our space and our IP with our patents,” Wallace said, “The Adaptics guys have refused to pay a royalty or agree to our terms for a license.”
We reached out to Drop, and its Co-Founder and CEO Ben Harris provided us with the following statement:
“While Drop does not comment on pending litigation, we don’t infringe any of Perfect’s patents and are continuing to challenge the validity of Perfect’s patents in Federal Court. We look forward to our court date in June when a jury will finally decide if Perfect’s patents are valid and remain focused on our mission of building the KitchenOS, a unified solution for the smart kitchen that connects the whole cooking journey, of which Drop Scale is just one of hundreds of appliances.”
What was of particular note in the press announcement surrounding the latest USPTO ruling is that Perfect called out Drop investor Alsop Louie by name. Alsop Louie Partners led the $8 million Series A that Drop raised last year, and I asked Wallace why Perfect mentioned them specifically.
“Alsop made a big bet on them. We thought it was important,” said Wallace, “This is a big investment bet. We decided to call that out. The money they are spending on this case are investment dollars.”
Whether this rattles Drop’s investor remains to be seen, but unless this dispute settles relatively soon, we’ll see both parties in court.