Jury sides with Ralcorp in ‘scoops’ case

by Eric Schroeder
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PLANO, TEXAS — A jury in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division has ruled in favor of St. Louis-Ralcorp Holdings and its Medallion Foods subsidiary in a patent infringement suit related to bowl-shaped tortilla chips.

Plano-based Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., sued Ralcorp and Medallion Foods in February 2012, claiming Ralcorp’s Bowlz corn chips were too similar to Frito-Lay’s Tostitos Scoops! chips. In both cases, the chips are formed into small bowl shapes, allowing for easier scooping. In its lawsuit, Frito-Lay said it has used the “scoops” design since at least as early as 2001.

“Frito-Lay has invested significantly in this product and it has enjoyed widespread consumer acceptance and success,” Frito-Lay noted in its February 2012 complaint. “Defendants’ bowl-shaped tortilla chips and accompanying package are an apparent intentional effort to imitate the famous, successful mark and packaging of Frito-Lay’s Tostitos Scoops! tortilla chips.”

Ralcorp responded to the lawsuit by saying it used a different manufacturing process and made a better chip at a lower cost.

Frito-Lay asked the U.S. District Court in Dallas to order Ralcorp to stop making the tortilla chips and pay $4.5 million damages, but a jury sided with Ralcorp on March 1.

Frito-Lay said in a statement it was disappointed in the ruling and weighing its legal options, while ConAgra, which now owns Ralcorp, said it was “pleased” with the jury’s decision.

“We believe private brands offer a strong value to consumers, and we are delighted to bring terrific choices to shoppers,” ConAgra said. “We will continue to develop and make distinctive, high-quality food like this chip.”
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