The latest front in the battle over intellectual property rights involves a ketchup packet and who can lawfully lay claim to the honor of inventing the “Dip & Squeeze.” An employee of the Chicago Housing Authority has filed suit against one of the big boys in the ketchup work, H.J. Heinz Co., on the grounds that his invention was the basis the recently released ketchup packet introduced last year.
The man, Scott White, claims that he applied for a patent for his invention back in 2005 which was ultimately granted last month. The patent was supposed to be for a condiment container that gave the user (or dipper) the option of either squeezing out the contents or opening the top to access its contents.
White says that his creation was dubbed the “CondiCup” and was even pitched to Heinz at one point. White says he traveled out to the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters to show executives the product. Heinz has remained mum on the work they did or didn’t do with White.
It’s important to note that White’s creation is not exactly identical to the product marketed by Heinz. His creation was round and meant to fit into a car cup holder without spilling. Heinz’s contraption is in the shape of a very small ketchup bottle and is not meant to be put in a cup holder.
White acknowledges the differences, but says that the basic novelty of his CondiCup was copied by Heinz: the fact that the top can be opened two different ways, permitting squeezing onto a hamburger or dipping for fries. White says it is this exact feature that has been so heavily promoted by Heinz as a breakthrough for its Dip & Squeeze line of ketchup containers. White points to the company’s 2010 annual report which mentioned the “revolutionary design” of the new packet ahead of its launch. White also cited a 2011 press release discussing the packet which said the design took the company three years to develop. This happened two years after White first approached Heinz with the idea.
For its part, Heinz has remained quiet. A company spokesperson only had this to say, “Heinz will defend its position and demonstrate that the plaintiff’s allegations are groundless and without merit.”
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