A dispute between the two titans in the poultry processing equipment market led the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to construe the term “protection of investments” in 35 U.S.C. §252. John Bean Techs. Corp. v. Morris & Assocs., Inc., No. 2020-1090, 2021 WL 641987 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 19, 2021). This section outlines the boundaries of the court’s equitable powers to absolve liability from infringement for substantively altered patents. The court affirmed the summary judgment decision by the District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas that granted equitable intervening rights to Morris & Associate Inc.’s (Morris) against John Bean Technologies Corporation’s (John Bean) infringement claims based on its reissued patent. Rejecting John Bean’s argument that “protection of investment” is limited to monetary investments made and recouped before the reissue certificate, the Federal Circuit determined that the lower court did not abuse its discretion by considering factors other than money invested before the reissue and granting Morris the defense of equitable intervening rights.

Two Poultry Chilling Equipment Manufacturing Giants

This case is about two bitter rivals. John Bean is an equipment manufacturer that makes poultry and seafood processing machines. At the core of the controversy is the auger-type poultry chiller, a formidable machine that processes poultry in large scale. John Bean’s U.S. Patent No. 6,397,622 (the ’622 patent) covers this particular invention. Morris is John Bean’s only U.S. competition in the industrial poultry chiller market.