- PTAB finds “reasonable likelihood” Motif will prevail in challenge of key Impossible patent
- Second setback for Impossible in effort to secure monopoly on use of heme in plant-based foods
BOSTON, June 20 2023 – In a highly-anticipated ruling by its Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced Friday it would institute inter partes review (IPR) of Patent 9,943,096 B2 claimed by Impossible Foods. The ruling commences an administrative trial, expected to take about a year, on the validity of one of Impossible Foods’ most important patents.
Motif FoodWorks petitioned for review of the patent after Impossible sued Motif in federal court last year, alleging patent infringement in using heme to create plant-based meat substitutes.
In the PTAB’s ruling on Friday, Administrative Patent Judge Donna M. Praiss wrote that Motif “has demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of prevailing with respect to at least one claim of the ’096 patent, and we institute inter partes review of all claims and all grounds asserted in the petition.”
The Impossible patent now under review – titled “Methods and Compositions for Affecting the Flavor and Aroma Profile of Consumables” – seeks to “better replicate the aromas and flavors of meat, particularly during and/or after cooking,” according to filings at the Patent and Trademark Office.
“We are pleased with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision to institute inter partes review (IPR) for Patent 9,943,096 B2, finding that Motif has shown a reasonable likelihood we will prevail,” said Michael Leonard, CEO of Motif FoodWorks. “Statistics show the PTAB invalidates one or more claims in 80 percent of the patents that reach a final decision in IPR, so we look forward to seeing this process play out.“
“This is not just a victory for Motif – it’s a victory for consumers,” added Leonard. “For us, this whole process is about protecting innovation and consumer choice in plant-based foods.”
Friday’s ruling marks Impossible’s second significant setback in its effort to secure a monopoly on using heme – a naturally occurring protein – to flavor plant-based meat substitutes. Late last year, the European Patent Office revoked an EU patent held by Impossible. Meanwhile, its lawsuit against Motif is still pending in federal district court in Delaware.
Motif and Impossible both use heme proteins in plant-based meat alternatives. Impossible’s heme protein is identical to soy leghemoglobin, a protein found in nodules attached to the roots of nitrogen-fixing plants like soy. Motif’s heme protein, HEMAMI™, is identical to bovine myoglobin, which is found in the muscle tissue of cows.
Motif argues that these ingredients, which have been used to develop the taste and smell of meat and meat alternatives in food products for decades, are not patentable by Impossible. Indeed, Motif argues that the ingredients that Impossible claims to have discovered have existed and been sold in everyday food products for decades and that the claims are a legally and factually baseless attempt to stifle innovation and limit consumer choice.
“Impossible is wasting resources, creativity, and opportunities through a failing litigation strategy,” Leonard said. “The company seems more concerned with securing monopoly power over a protein than with growing this sector.”
“Since our founding in 2018, Motif has reinvented plant-based meat, making it better tasting, more nutritious and sustainable,” added Leonard. “Impossible is determined to stop that innovation – hurting consumers, our industry and, ultimately, our planet. We will continue to fight Impossible’s aggressive actions to limit competition and are gratified that the PTAB found merit in our position.”
About Motif FoodWorks
Motif FoodWorks is creating the next generation of food. We are a food technology company developing breakthrough ingredients that unleash the promise of plant-based foods and transform the eating experience – from first bite to lasting impact. With food as our passion and innovation coded into our DNA, we are driven by the science of more. More taste. More texture. More choices for consumers. That is why our work has gone beyond the lab. We have taken it all the way to the plate with products grown from the universal experience of what great food should be: tantalizing, satiating, and nourishing. Our ecosystem of ingredients and finished products are designed for people of all habits and beliefs and with the health of our planet always in mind. Because at Motif, we believe the food of the future should set you free. For more information, visit www.madewithmotif.com.