California Patent Attorney® Blog

Frito-Lay Loses SCOOPS! Tortilla Chip Patent Fight

March 7, 2013

chips-guacamole.jpgCalifornia - A Texas jury sided with BOWLZ chips maker Medallion Foods, Inc. saying that the company did not infringe Tostitos SCOOPS! manufacturer Frito-Lay North America Inc.'s patent for bowl-shaped tortilla chips.

PepsiCo, Inc. subsidiary Frito-Lay alleged that Ralcorp Holdings subsidiary Medallion had stolen its patented design for making the unique bowl-shaped tortilla chips and claimed that it purposely tried to confuse consumers by using similar packaging design and colors.

"Defendants' bowl-shaped tortilla chips and accompanying package are an apparent intentional effort to imitate the famous, successful trademark and packaging of Frito-Lay's Tostitos SCOOPS! tortilla chips," the complaint read.

However, the jury found that Frito-Lay had failed to prove that Medallion's store brand of chips sold at Wal-Mart stores infringed its method for making the chips, that it had infringed the packaging of the product, that Medallion's product would dilute the SCOOPS! brand in any way, or that Medallion was engaging in unfair competition by using similar packaging designs.

The food fight started when Frito-Lay sent a cease and desist letter to Medallion in early February 2012 accusing the company of infringing its intellectual property and demanding that it stop producing the BOWLZ chips within two days because of the purported infringement.

Medallion refused to comply because it believed it had not done anything wrong. When the cease and desist deadline passed, Medallion filed a lawsuit against Frito-Lay in Arkansas federal court requesting a declaratory judgment that its chip does not infringe on Frito-Lay's trademarks and patents. The case was dismissed later that year.

Frito-Lay responded to Medallion's lawsuit by filing a separate lawsuit that same month in Texas federal court, which resulted in the trial that concluded Friday. The complaint accused Medallion of infringing its patent-protected method for making the bowl-shaped chips and also accused Medallion of copying it packaging.

The jury, however, found that Medallion's methods for making its chip are different than the methods described in Frito-Lay's patent and disagreed that the packaging would cause confusion among consumers. Frito-Lay had requested $4.5 million in damages and an injunction preventing the company from continuing to make the BOWLZ chips.