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Tetra Pak awarded $2m for cheese vat patent infringement

By Mark Astley+

07-Apr-2014
Last updated on 08-Apr-2014 at 11:08 GMT

Tetra Pak awarded $2m for cheese vat patent infringement

Cheese Systems Inc (CSI) has agreed to pay $2m (€1.45m, £1.2m) in damages to Tetra Pak for infringing on one of the Swiss processing and packaging giant's US cheese making technology patents.

Tetra Pak Cheese and Powder Systems, a US subsidiary of Tetra Pak that specializes in cheese making and drying equipment, and Wisconsin-based CSI jointly announced earlier today that they had concluded settlement talks relating to an infringement by the latter of a Tetra Pak patent.

“Under the terms of the settlement, CSI will compensate Tetra Pak $2m for damages related to its infringement of Tetra Pak’s US Patent No 5985347,” said the joint statement.

CSI also agreed “to refrain from making, using, selling, offering to sell, and/or importing cheese vats which employ the patented counter-rotating shaft technology for the remaining life of the Tetra Pak patent."

The patent in question, US Patent No 5985347, was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office by Tetra Pak in March 1998 and issued in November 1999. It details how counter-rotating, as opposed to co-rotating panels -"agitator panels which are driven to rotate in opposite directions" - inside the vat can improve the cheese making process.

CSI's High Solids Cheese Vat (HSCV), to which the infringement relates, was similarly described in court documents as an "enclosed cheese vat, which two shafts running generally horizontal to the ground, with the counter-rotational shafts driven by an electric motor."

Court battle

CSI and Tetra Pak initiated the concluded settlement talks following the affirmation by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in August 2013 of an earlier ruling that CSI had infringed on the Tetra Pak patent.

Cheese Systems Inc's High Solids Cheese Vat.

The dispute dates back to May 2010 when Tetra Pak sent a letter to CSI informing it that its cheese vat infringed on US Patent No 5985347.

In January 2011, CSI filed a complaint against Tetra Pak seeking a declaration that its cheese vat did not infringe on the patent and that the patent was invalid. In response, Tetra Pak filed a counterclaim, alleging that the CSI HSCV infringed on its patent.

The US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin "determined that CSI infringed under the doctrine of equivalents and have not proven the '347 patent invalid."

CSI appealed, arguing that the District Court "erred in three aspects of claim construction, in finding infringement as a matter of law, and in denying summary judgment of invalidity based on CSI's defenses of anticipation and obviousness."

But in August 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the original judgement. 

"This court finds the remainder of CSI's arguments unpersuasive. Accordingly, this court affirms," the court concluded.

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