Inventor Scott White says the idea behind the “Dip & Squeeze” condiment packets from H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ) was his. Consequentially, he’s suing the ketchup conglomerate for patent infringement.
In 2005, White invented and trademarked the “CondiCup,” which he claims was the basis for the Heinz packets that debuted at restaurants like Dairy Queen and Chick-fil-A last year. He told The Wall Street Journal that he even pitched his invention directly to Heinz in 2006.
Heinz sees the situation in a different light.
“Heinz worked for years to develop its patented dual-function Dip & Squeeze package,” spokesman Michael Mullen told the Journal. “Heinz will defend its position and demonstrate that the plaintiff’s allegations are groundless and without merit.”
Although White admits that the Dip & Squeeze is not an exact replica of his CondiCup design, he believes the two are similar enough — especially the removable cover element.
In the lawsuit, White says that like the final Heinz product, his design “provides that the cover should be totally removable from the wide end of the container to access the wide end—e.g. for dipping—as well as removable from the narrow end to ‘squirt or squeeze a condiment from the container.’”
Regardless of who actually invented the product, the Dip & Squeeze has been a hit for Heinz. In addition selling it to fast-food chains, Heinz sells the packets in stores like Safeway (NYSE:SWY), Kroger (NYSE:KR), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT).