PLANO, TEXAS — A jury in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division has ruled in favor of St. Louis-Ralcorp Holdings and its Medallion Foods subsidiary in a patent infringement suit related to bowl-shaped tortilla chips.
Plano-based Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., sued Ralcorp and Medallion Foods in February 2012, claiming Ralcorp’s Bowlz corn chips were too similar to Frito-Lay’s Tostitos Scoops! chips. In both cases, the chips are formed into small bowl shapes, allowing for easier scooping. In its lawsuit, Frito-Lay said it has used the “scoops” design since at least as early as 2001.
“Frito-Lay has invested significantly in this product and it has enjoyed widespread consumer acceptance and success,” Frito-Lay noted in its February 2012 complaint. “Defendants’ bowl-shaped tortilla chips and accompanying package are an apparent intentional effort to imitate the famous, successful mark and packaging of Frito-Lay’s Tostitos Scoops! tortilla chips.”
Ralcorp responded to the lawsuit by saying it used a different manufacturing process and made a better chip at a lower cost.
Frito-Lay asked the U.S. District Court in Dallas to order Ralcorp to stop making the tortilla chips and pay $4.5 million damages, but a jury sided with Ralcorp on March 1.
Frito-Lay said in a statement it was disappointed in the ruling and weighing its legal options, while ConAgra, which now owns Ralcorp, said it was “pleased” with the jury’s decision.“We believe private brands offer a strong value to consumers, and we are delighted to bring terrific choices to shoppers,” ConAgra said. “We will continue to develop and make distinctive, high-quality food like this chip.”