The alternative (“alt-“) animal products industry is growing increasingly more popular each year, causing an increased demand in foods made from plant proteins or cultured in a lab. As more alt-animal products emerge, the amount of foodtech patents increases and the foodtech patent landscape becomes more and more complex. In this article, we will provide a distillation of the patent portfolios of the biggest market players in the U.S. foodtech industry and some startups, which are starting to build their own foodtech patent portfolios.
Given the relatively young age of this industry, most of the alt-animal product patents have not yet been tested in litigation. However, as we have previously reported, foodtech pioneer, Impossible Foods Inc. (“Impossible Foods”) filed the first ever U.S. patent infringement lawsuit in the foodtech industry, against Motif Foodworks Inc. (“Motif”), a Massachusetts-based start-up, in 2022. And in response, Motif filed several IPRs seeking to invalidate Impossible Foods’ hemeprotein patents. We will continue to follow this case and report on new developments.
Impossible Foods is one of the early entrants to the alt-protein foodtech industry. The company was founded in 2011 and launched its first alt-meat product, the Impossible Burger, in 2016. Impossible Foods touts its Impossible Burger as using 96% less land, 87% less water, and emitting about 89% less greenhouse gas for its production than beef patties. Impossible Foods’ alt-meat products are currently sold in the U.S. in grocery stores across the country, and are available in a wide range of restaurants from fast food restaurants to Michelin-starred restaurants.
Impossible Foods has one of the largest patent portfolios in the alt-animal products industry with more than 200 global patent applications and over 100 granted patents worldwide. Hemeproteins are at the heart of Impossible Foods’ patent portfolio with several granted claims covering a food product containing “a heme-containing protein.” Impossible Foods also has patents covering processes and other products that are related to making the final food product (in addition to the food product as well).
As we discussed in our previous article, Impossible Foods is currently engaged in a lawsuit with Motif, and Motif has also filed several petitions with the PTAB challenging six of Impossible Foods’ heme patents. This lawsuit is not the only test of Impossible Foods’ global patent portfolio. In 2018, Reiser & Partner Patentanwälte mbB requested a different Impossible Foods patent (EP14737766) be reexamined. The opponent has requested complete revocation of the patent due to inadmissible extension, insufficient disclosure, lack of novelty, and lack of inventive step. The patent was revoked on December 19, 2022; however, Impossible Foods filed its Notice of Appeal on February 17, 2023.
Beyond Meat, Inc. (“Beyond Meat”) was founded in 2009 and went public in 2019. Even though it was founded before Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, formerly incorporated as Savage River, Inc., has a much smaller global patent portfolio. In contrast, it is more prolific in the trademark space and has filed for over 100 trademarks covering various “Beyond” products. Beyond Meat’s alt-animal products are currently sold in the U.S. in grocery and convenience stores across the country, and are also available in fast food restaurants. As of December 31, 2022, Beyond Meat had two issued U.S. patents and seven patents outside the United States (U.K., Indonesia, Canada, China, Chile, Israel, and Australia). It also had two pending patent applications in the United States, eight pending international patent applications, and one provisional patent application.
In contrast to Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat does not use hemeproteins to achieve the sensory characteristics of animal products. Rather, its patents are directed towards “meat structured protein products,” which use, inter alia, cell-wall material to form protein networks that are able to mimic the texture of animal products.
Eat Just, Inc. (“Eat Just”), founded in 2011 and formerly known as Hampton Creek Foods, is another early entrant to the alt-protein industry. Its patent portfolio is focused on making animal product-like foods using mung bean and adzuki bean protein compositions and AI-based systems for identifying plant proteins for food applications. Overall, like Beyond Meat, Eat Just has a smaller global patent portfolio including four granted U.S. patents and seven U.S. published patent applications. Its lab-grown chicken became the first cultured meat worldwide to gain regulatory approval in Singapore. Additionally, lab-grown meat received FDA approval in late 2022. Eat Just’s alt-animal products are currently sold in the U.S. in grocery stores across the country, and its products can be found in a variety of restaurants all over the world.
NotCo is a Chilean foodtech company founded in 2015. It has already experienced strong commercial success in South America, and it is one of the region’s fastest growing foodtech companies. In 2020, it launched its NotMilk product in the U.S. market in Whole Foods.
Additionally, between 2019 and 2021, NotCo was granted several U.S. patents covering “Giuseppe,” NotCo’s AI system designed to “learn from open source and proprietary databases” and use a prediction model to source plant based ingredients to be used to match a target animal-based food item. Interestingly, NotCo took a different approach to its patent portfolio, as its 13 granted U.S. patents and eight pending patent applications are all directed towards methods for generating formulas and recipes rather than for the products or formulations themselves.
While the early entrants had a head start in commercializing products, building patent portfolios, and gaining regulatory approval, they are not the only innovators in the alt-protein food industry. Recently, numerous start-ups have started to enter the space with promising new approaches to alt-meat tech.
For example, Upside Foods, formerly known as Memphis Meats, together with the University of Missouri, has several U.S. patents and pending patent applications directed towards culturing meat products grown in vitro. The lab-grown meat product gained FDA approval in November 2022.
Another example is Perfect Day, also called Muufri, which has four granted U.S. patent covering: (1) a food composition that mimics the “taste, aroma, appearance, handling, mouthfeel, density, structure, texture, elasticity, springiness, coagulation, binding, leavening, aeration, foaming, creaminess, and emulsification” of dairy products using recombinant beta-lactoglobulin protein and recombinant alpha-lactalbumin protein; and (2) substitute dairy compositions comprising casein. It also has several pending applications and granted patents covering casein and other milk proteins. Its alt-dairy products can already be found in restaurants and grocery stores across the U.S.
Other players in this growing industry include Ripple Foods (which has two granted U.S. patent and several published U.S. patent applications directed towards alt-dairy products), New Wave Foods (which has one published U.S. patent application directed towards alt-seafood),  WildType (which is focused on developing lab grown sushi grade salmon), Alpine Roads (which has five U.S. patents and several published U.S. patent applications directed towards alt-milk proteins), Clara Foods (which has five U.S. patents and several published U.S. patent applications directed towards alt-animal proteins), Shiru (which recently launched OleoProTM, a protein-based alternative fat ingredient for use in alternative protein food products), and Eat MeatiTM (which uses mushroom root to create its version of alt-meat). Globally, emerging companies coming out of Asia, Europe, and Australia are also entering the foodtech space.
Innovation in the growing alt-animal products space has caused foodtech pioneers and startups to seek to protect core aspects of their technologies through the patent system, helping such companies strengthen their respective positions in the market and build IP assets in the process. These IP assets may be useful in leveraging licensing deals and preventing competitors from infringing on patent-holders’ claimed technologies, making them strong line items on a company’s balance sheet. We will be monitoring how this space develops in the coming months and years, including with respect to whether the increase in technological advancements, sales activity, and new entrants will also increase the occurrences of patent infringement and concomitant patent litigation activity.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this posting does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice or express any opinion to be relied upon legally, for investment purposes or otherwise. If you would like to obtain legal advice relating to the subject matter addressed in this posting, please consult with us or your attorney. The information in this post is also based upon publicly available information, presents opinions, and does not represent in any way whatsoever the opinions or official positions of the entities or individuals referenced herein.
 Khan et al., Environmental Life Cycle Analysis: Impossible Burger 2.0, Impossible, https://impossiblefoods.com/sustainable-food/burger-life-cycle-assessment-2019 (last visited Jun. 7, 2022).
 See, e.g., U.S. Patent No. 10,863,761 (filed May 21, 2021) and U.S. Patent No. 9,808,029 (filed Jun. 15, 2017).
 See, e.g., U.S. Patent No. 10,172,381 (filed Oct. 18, 2017) and U.S. Patent No. 10,273,492 (filed Aug. 16, 2017).
 Motif Foodworks, Inc. v. Impossible Foods Inc., No. IPR2023-00321 (P.T.A.B. Jan. 28, 2023); Motif Foodworks, Inc. v. Impossible Foods Inc., No. IPR2023-00322 (P.T.A.B. Jan. 28, 2023); Motif Foodworks, Inc. v. Impossible Foods Inc., No. IPR2023-00206 (P.T.A.B. Dec. 12, 2023); Motif Foodworks, Inc. v. Impossible Foods Inc., No. IPR2023-00209 (P.T.A.B. Dec. 12, 2023); Motif Foodworks, Inc. v. Impossible Foods Inc., No. IPR2023-00207 (P.T.A.B. Dec. 12, 2023); Motif Foodworks, Inc. v. Impossible Foods Inc., No. IPR2023-00208 (P.T.A.B. Dec. 12, 2023).
 David Gelles, The ‘Hedonistic Altruism’ of Plant-Based Meat, N.Y. Times (Aug. 27, 2021), https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/27/business/ethan-brown-beyond-meat-corner-office.html.
 See, e.g., U.S. Patent No. 9,526,267 (filed Apr. 15, 2015) and U.S. Patent No. 11,019,836 (filed Aug. 1, 2016).
 See, e.g., U.S. Patent No. 10,321,705 (filed Feb. 17, 2017); U.S. Patent No. 9,760,834 (filed Sep. 12, 2016); U.S. Patent No. 11,266,163 (filed Feb. 17, 2017); and U.S. Patent No. 11,311,038 (filed Feb. 17, 2017).
 Eat Just’s lab-grown chicken gained regulatory approval from the Singapore Food Agency. See, e.g., Andrew Noyes, Eat Just Granted World’s First Regulatory Approval for Cultured Meat, BusinessWire (Dec. 1, 2020), https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201201006251/en/Eat-Just-Granted-World%E2%80%99s-First-Regulatory-Approval-for-Cultured-Meat.
 See, e.g., Claire Toeniskoetter, Lab-grown Meat Receives Clearance from FDA (Nov. 17, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/17/climate/fda-lab-grown-cultivated-meat.html.
 Organization: NotCo (The Not Company), crunchbase, https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/the-not-company (last visited Nov. 26, 2022).
 Jonathan Shieber, The Not Company is Looking to Start a Food Revolution from Chile (July 28, 2018), https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/28/the-not-company-is-looking-to-start-a-food-revolution-from-chile/.
 Zetlin et al., Jeff Bezos Invested Millions in a Startup Just So Whole Foods Could Sell This Weird Product (Nov. 7, 2020), https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/jeff-bezos-notmilk-bezos-expeditions-whole-foods.html.
 See, e.g., U.S. Patent No. 11,164,478 (filed May 17, 2019); U.S. Patent No. 10,915,818 (filed Jul. 8, 2020).
 See, e.g., U.S. Patent No. 11,164,478 (filed May 17, 2019); U.S. Patent No. 10,970,621 (filed Oct. 8, 2019); U.S. Patent No. 10,970,621 (filed Oct. 8, 2019); U.S. Patent No. 11,164,069 (filed Feb. 4, 2021); and U.S. Patent Application No. 20220358387 (filed May 4, 2021).
 See, e.g. U.S. Patent No. 10,920,196 (filed Apr. 20, 2016); U.S. Patent No. 11,147,300 (filed Nov. 20, 2020); and U.S. Patent Application No. 20220251550 (filed Dec. 8, 2021).
 Leah Douglas, Lab-Grown Meat Cleared for Human Consumption by U.S. Regulator (Nov. 16, 2022), https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/lab-grown-meat-cleared-human-consumption-by-us-regulator-2022-11-16/.
 See, e.g. U.S. Patent No. 9,924,728 (filed Feb. 21, 2017); and U.S. Patent No. 11,457,649 (filed Aug. 19, 2021).
 See, e.g. U.S. Patent Application No. 20190216106A1 (filed Aug. 25, 2017); and U.S. Patent Application No. 20210037848 (filed Oct., 26, 2020).
 See, e.g. U.S. Patent No. 11.172,691 (filed May 19, 2020); and U.S. Patent No. 11,571,002 (filed May 19, 2020).
 U.S. Patent Application No. 20220232853 (filed May 15, 2020).
 See, e.g. U.S. Patent No. 10,894,812 B1 (filed Sep. 30, 2020), U.S. Patent No. 10,947,552 B1 (filed Sep. 30, 2020), U.S. Patent No. 10,988,521 B1 (filed Dec. 18, 2020), U.S. Patent No. 11,034,743 B1 (filed June 15, 2021), U.S. Patent No. 11,072,797 B1 (filed July 27, 2021), U.S. Patent Application No. 20210010017 A1 (filed Jan. 14, 2021).
 See, e.g. U.S. Patent No. 11,279,748 (filed Mar. 22, 2022), U.S. Patent No. 10,927,360 (filed Feb. 23, 2021), U.S. Patent No. 11,142,754 (filed Mar. 2, 2021), U.S. Patent No. 11,160,299 (filed Nov. 2, 2021), U.S. Patent No. 11,518,797 (filed Nov. 2, 2021) U.S. Patent Application No. 20180355020 (filed Nov. 11, 2015), U.S. Patent Application No. 20210337826 (filed Nov. 4, 2021), U.S. Patent Application No. 20220039443 (filed Feb. 10, 2022), U.S. Patent Application No. 20220064619 (filed Mar. 3, 2022), U.S. Patent Application No. 20220117285 A1 (filed Apr. 21, 2022).
 Shiru launches OleoProTM, a Protein-Based Alternative Fat Ingredient to Unlock the Next Generation of Plant-Based Foods, Shiru (Mar. 13, 2023, 9:00 ET), https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2023/03/13/2625781/0/en/Shiru-launches-OleoPro-a-protein-based-alternative-fat-ingredient-to-unlock-the-next-generation-of-plant-based-foods.html#:~:text=About%20Shiru&text=Founded%20in%202019%2C%20Shiru%20has,are%20both%20functional%20and%20scalable.
 See, e.g. Amanda Pun, The Plant-Based Revolution: 10 European Vegan Meat Alternative Brands to Check Out, EU-Startups (Dec. 28, 2021), https://www.eu-startups.com/2021/12/the-plant-based-revolution-10-european-vegan-meat-alternative-brands-to-check-out/; NEXT MEATS Releases their First Plant-Based Seafood Alternative with NEXT Tuna in Japan, Japan Today (Oct. 30, 2021), https://japantoday.com/category/features/new-products/next-meats-releases-their-first-plant-based-seafood-alternative-with-next-tuna-in-japan; India’s “Biggest Power Couple” Invest in Plant-Based Meat Producer Blue Tribe Foods, Vegconomist (Feb. 8, 2022), https://vegconomist.com/investments-finance/indias-biggest-power-couple-invest-in-plant-based-meat-producer-blue-tribe-foods/; Jack Ellis, Data Snapshot: Alt-protein is Now in China’s 5-Year Plan. Here’s How Much Funding It Raised in 2020, AgFunder Network (Feb. 9, 2022), https://agfundernews.com/five-year-plan-china-alt-protein-heres-how-much-funding-it-got-in-2020; Damian Carrington, Meatball from long-extinct mammoth created by food firm, The Guardian (Mar. 28, 2023), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/mar/28/meatball-mammoth-created-cultivated-meat-firm.