Decas files counterclaims against Ocean Spray

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — Decas Cranberry Products, Inc. has filed counterclaims against Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., and its president and chief executive officer, Randy C. Papadellis, after Ocean Spray originally sued Decas for alleged patent infringement. Decas Cranberry Products demanded a jury trial in its counterclaims filed June 23 in a U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.

Ocean Spray filed a lawsuit on Oct. 14, 2008, and claimed Decas allegedly infringed Patent No. 5,320,861 entitled "Fruit Extraction Infusion" while making, using, offering to sell and/or selling products, including Decas Premium Sweetened Dried Cranberries.

Decas in its counterclaims denies the allegations of patent infringement and further alleges Ocean Spray filed the lawsuit in an attempt to interfere with Decas’ business relationships, which included a potential sale of Decas and Decas contract negotiations with cranberry growers.

Decas seeks, among other things, a judgment that it did not infringe on the Ocean Spray patent, that the patent is invalid and unenforceable, and that Decas be awarded the damages it has sustained in an amount to be proven at trial and then trebled.

Ocean Spray, Lakeville-Middleville, Mass., manufactures and sells a sweetened dried cranberry product under the trade name Craisins. The sweetened dried cranberry product sold by Decas, Carver, Mass., is its most profitable processed food item.

Ocean Spray originally expressed an interest in acquiring Decas in December 2006, according to the counterclaims. Decas explored the possibility of other potential buyers and received non-binding letters of interest from Ocean Spray and 10 other companies.

On June 17, 2008, Decas received a letter from Mr. Papadellis and Ocean Spray that detailed a proposed acquisition. The letter also stated Decas might be infringing on Ocean Spray’s patent. That statement represented an improper attempt to impede the sale of Decas, according to Decas.

On July 15, 2008, Ocean Spray requested an opportunity to examine Decas’ manufacturing process. Decas refused. On Oct. 14, 2008, Ocean Spray filed its lawsuit. Ocean Spray, according to Decas, knew cranberry growers would be less likely to contract with Decas if they were concerned about Decas’ ability to manufacture its sweetened dried cranberry product.

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