Citation. Juicy Whip, Inc. v. Orange Bang, Inc., 185 F.3d 1364, 51 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1700 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 6, 1999)
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Brief Fact Summary.
Juicy Whip, Inc. (Plaintiff) sued Orange Bang, Inc. (Defendant), claiming infringement on its beverage-dispensing patent. Defendant argued the dispenser lacked utility and was therefore unpatentable.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The statutory requirement of utility is satisfied if one product can be altered to resemble another product because that in and of itself is a benefit. An invention does not lack utility for patent purposes just because it uses imitation to fool the public in a way that is designed to increase product sales.
Juice Whip, Inc. (Plaintiff) has a patent for a post-mix beverage dispenser that is intended to look like a pre-mix beverage dispenser. A post-mix dispenser stores beverage syrup concentrate and water in separate locations until the beverage is ready to be dispensed. On the other hand, a pre-mix beverage dispenser pre-mixes the syrup concentrate and water and the beverage is stored in a display reservoir bowl until it is ready for dispensing. A pre-mix dispenser’s display bowl stimulates impulse buying. However, this process also creates the need to clean the bowl frequently due to bacteria building up. The patented dispenser therefore has the appearance of a pre-mix dispenser but functions as a post-mix dispenser, which decreases maintenance. Plaintiff sued Orange Bang, Inc. (Defendant) alleging it was infringing on the patent. The district court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and held the patent invalid due to lack of utility.
Does the post-mix dispenser that looks like a pre-mix dispenser lack utility?
[Judge not stated in casebook excerpt.] No. The post-mix dispenser does not lack utility. The Patent Act provides that whoever invents any useful machine may obtain a patent for it. An invention is useful if it is capable of providing some identifiable benefit. Although inventions that are harmful to the well-being of society are considered unpatentable, the principle that inventions are invalid if they are mainly designed to serve immoral purposes has not recently been applied broadly. The district court’s reliance on the cases of Rickard v. Du Bon, 103 F. 868 (2d Cir. 1900), and Scott & Williams v. Aristo Hosiery Co., 7 F.2d 1003 (2d Cir. 1925), is therefore misplaced as they fail to represent the correct view of the doctrine of utility under the Patent Act of 1952. The statutory requirement of utility is satisfied if one product can be altered to make it resemble another, because that in and of itself is a benefit. It is common for a product to be designed to appear to viewers to be something that it is not and there are many patents directed at making one product imitate another. The value of such products is that they appear to be something that they are not. Here, the post-mix dispenser has utility because it embodies the features of a post-mix dispenser while imitating the visual appearance of a pre-mix dispenser. Just because consumers ma believe that they are receiving fluid directly from the display tank does not mean the invention does not have utility. Even if it was considered deceptive, that does not mean it is unpatentable. Other agencies, and not the Patent and Trademark Office, are delegated the task of protecting customers from fraud and deception in the sale of food products. Furthermore, it is the task of Congress to declare particular types of inventions unpatentable. Reversed and remanded.
This case centered on the reasoning that the invention was useful in and of itself because it was able to create more sales by fooling consumers into believing that it was getting a certain product when it was really getting something else. The real utility of the product was that it was increasing sales by providing customers with the appearance of the product without the required cleaning and maintenance involved in creating the actual product.