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U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Consider Bacon Pre-Cooking Patent Lawsuit Against Hormel Foods

Nov. 7, 2023
Lawsuit against Hormel Foods by equipment manufacturer HIP claimed that CEO David Howard should be named as sole or joint inventor of patented bacon pre-cooking method.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week rejected the opportunity to reconsider the merits of joint inventorship where a patent is concerned, when it declined to take up the lawsuit “HIP Inc v. Hormel Foods Corp, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 22-1696,” according to a report from Reuters.

In the suit, David Howard, CEO of equipment supplier HIP, claimed that he should be either a sole or joint inventor of the patented method that Hormel uses to pre-cook sliced bacon. However, in May 2023, a U.S. appeals court ruled against him, saying his contribution was “insignificant.”

Howard met with Hormel in 2007 about development of an oven, at which point he says he told Hormel about the concept of preheating the bacon with an infrared oven — Hormel then used that concept to develop a two-step process to make pre-cooked bacon, for which it received a patent in 2018.

The lawsuit was filed in 2021 in Delaware federal court, which ordered that Howard be named as a joint inventor. However, the May 2023 ruling reversed that decision, noting that infrared preheating was mentioned only twice in the patent, which focused more on the use of microwave ovens.

HIP asked the Supreme Court to take up the case in August, saying the dispute was of “enormous practical importance,” according to the reports.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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