LITTLE ROCK, ARK. – A federal judge has invalidated the patent for a method of poultry preparation held by California-based Enviro Tech Chemical Services, Inc. The ruling has implications for the entire poultry industry because Enviro Tech had sought to enforce its patent against major competitors that service most of the U.S. poultry industry.
“This ruling eviscerates Enviro Tech’s patent and protects Safe Foods and others who provide crucial preparation services to the poultry industry,” says Amir Alavi, name partner in Houston trial firm Alavi Anaipakos and lead counsel for Safe Foods. “We are exceptionally pleased with the court’s ruling and, most of all, happy for our client.”
The Dec. 15 ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee P. Rudofsky of Little Rock, Arkansas, came after a claim construction hearing, also known as a Markman hearing, in which the Judge was asked to rule on the meaning of the words in Enviro Tech’s patent.
Enviro Tech’s asserted patent claims a method directed to a step in the poultry preparation process that sanitizes the birds. After the birds are slaughtered and defeathered, they are soaked in a “chill tank” filled with a combination of sanitizing chemicals and near-freezing water. The primary sanitizing agent in the chill tank is peracetic acid. Enviro Tech’s patent claims a method in which the pH level of the peracetic acid containing water is altered.
In its lawsuit, Enviro Tech Chemical Services, Inc. v. Safe Foods Corporation, No. 4:21-CV-00601-LPR, Safe Foods took issue with five terms or phrases in Enviro Tech’s patent’s claims: (1) “determining the pH”; (2) “altering the pH”; (3) “after the step of”; (4) “about”; and (5) “antimicrobial amount.”
On behalf of Safe Foods, Alavi Anaipakos argued that the meanings of the first three phrases were ambiguous and required claim construction. They also claimed that the last two terms were “indefinite,” meaning that they were written in an unreasonably broad or vague manner, such that it becomes nearly impossible to tell what actions do and do not infringe that patent claim.
In his 32-page ruling, Judge Rudofsky agreed with Safe Foods’ interpretation of all five terms in the patent, including finding that the final two terms were indefinite, which effectively invalidates Enviro Tech’s patent.
This is the second bet-the-industry win for Alavi Anaipakos in less than two months. In October, a three-judge panel with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board, in Washington, D.C., issued a complete victory for Houston-based oilfield products manufacturer G&H Diversified Manufacturing LP.