ConAgra, ADM in dispute over white wheat patent
March 23, 2012
by Eric Schroeder
KANSAS CITY — ConAgra Foods Inc., Omaha, has filed a complaint against Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., alleging ADM is infringing on ConAgra’s patent for producing white whole wheat products.
In a March 21 complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, ConAgra said it has been the holder of U.S. Patent No. 8,017,172 (‘172 patent), entitled “Whole grain flour and products including the same,” since Sept. 13, 2011. As such, the company claims it has “the sole and exclusive right to manufacture, use, sell, and offer for sale, the technology covered by the ‘172 patent, as well as the sole and exclusive right to enforce the ‘172 patent against infringers and to recover damages resulting from the same.”
“In the late 1990s, ConAgra’s leading food scientists and grain millers attempted to develop nutritious, high fiber whole wheat food products with the palatable appeal and popularity of refined, or white, flour that draw a large segment of ConAgra’s customers,” the filing said. “Further, ConAgra sought to develop refined flour capable of meeting the definition of ‘whole wheat flour’ pursuant to 21 C.F.R. 137.200. Through years of testing, development, and technological improvement of its state-of-the-art flour mills, ConAgra succeeded in milling a whole grain not only retaining its traditional nutrients and benefits, but also containing the texture, taste, and finished baked qualities of refined flour.
“To preserve this new innovation in food production, ConAgra promptly sought patent protection.”
ConAgra said ADM has been directly infringing on its patent by making, using, selling, offering for sale, white whole wheat products, including Kansas Diamond White Whole Wheat Flour, without ConAgra’s permission.
According to the filing ADM has had knowledge of the ‘172 patent since at least Sept. 22, 2011, which was the date of e-mail correspondence between representatives of the two companies.
ADM declined to comment on the filing.