The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has launched an investigation into Heineken’s methods for storing beer after the company was accused of patent infringement.
The ITC initiated the investigation yesterday, May 31, after Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch (AB) InBev, filed a complaint with the ITC on April 30 claiming violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.
This complaint was based on a patent infringement claim that AB InBev filed against Heineken in April at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In its claim before the district court, AB InBev alleged that the Netherlands-based company had infringed US patent numbers 9,162,372; 9,517,876; 9,994,453; and 9,555,572, which cover AB InBev’s method of storing beer in a keg using a “blow-moulded bag-in-container”.
The patents relate to a method of introducing pressurised gas into a bottle while preventing the gas from contacting the beer. This preserves the flavour and quality of the alcohol.
Draft beer is traditionally kept in stainless steel kegs and is dispensed by introducing gas directly into the keg, which forces the beer out and can therefore affect the quality of the beer.
AB InBev’s bag-in-container bottle invention consists of a vent that extends through the neck of the bottle and into the keg, between the inner bag and outer container, which stops the gas and beer from coming into contact.
According to the original claim at the district court, Heineken’s infringing products are the BewLock system and the Blade, which are described as “blow-moulded bag-in-container bottles”.
AB InBev filed supplements to the complaint at the ITC on May 4 and May 15.
According to the ITC, AB InBev’s supplemented complaints relate to Heineken’s “certain blow-moulded bag-in-container devices, associated components, and end products” containing the allegedly infringing patents.
AB InBev has asked the ITC to issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders against Heineken.
Although the ITC has launched an investigation, it does not mean that it has decided on the complaint.
The ITC’s chief administrative law judge (ALJ) will now assign the case to one of the commission’s ALJs, who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The ALJ will also make an initial determination on whether Heineken has violated section 337 of the act.
A target date for reaching a conclusion will be set within 45 days of the launch of the investigation.
A spokesperson for Heineken told WIPR: "Heineken does not agree with AB InBev's claims and we are confident in the merits of our case. As this is now a matter of the court, we will not divulge any further detail at this time."
Meanwhile, AB InBev responded by telling WIPR that it is continually trying to innovate in order to deliver "high quality, great tasting" beers.
They added: "We brought these lawsuits to protect our investments and our patented technology, and we look forward to having our rights recognised in court."