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David Wawrzynski v. H. J. Heinz Company

June 20, 2012

DAVID WAWRZYNSKI,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
H. J. HEINZ COMPANY, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO COUNT ONE, NON-INFRINGMENT OF PATENT, AND TO VOLUNTARILY WITHDRAW COUNT TWO, INVALIDITY (DOC. NO. 86)

Plaintiff sued Defendants for breach of implied contract and unjust enrichment pertaining to a device used to dispense ketchup. Doc. No. 4. In response to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Defendants counterclaimed seeking a declaration that they did not infringe Plaintiff's patent and/or that Plaintiff's patent is invalid. Doc. No. 26.

Plaintiff filed a Motion to Dismiss the Defendants' patent-law based Counterclaims. Doc. No. 62. Defendants' previously filed a Motion for Summary Judgment contending that Plaintiff's claims for breach of implied contract and unjust enrichment were preempted by federal patent law. Doc. No. 67. The Court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss the Counterclaims and granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment finding that Plaintiff's common law claims were preempted by federal patent law. Doc. Nos. 78, 84. After these decisions were reached, all that remained to this case was Defendants' Counterclaims seeking a declaration that they did not infringe Plaintiff's patent and/or that Plaintiff's patent is invalid.

Currently before the Court is Defendants' Partial Motion for Summary Judgment contending that judgment should be entered in their favor on its counterclaim for non- infringement of Plaintiff's patent. Doc. No. 86. Defendants have also moved to dismiss their counterclaim as to invalidity. Id.

Plaintiff timely filed his Brief in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment of the Non-Infringement Claim and Voluntary Dismissal of the Invalidity Claim. Doc. No. 89. Plaintiff contends that this Court has no subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff continues to claim that he sued Defendants for using his "evolved" ideas, and these ideas were not the subject of his patent. Id.

In their Reply Brief, Defendants note that the Court has twice rejected Plaintiff's lack of subject matter jurisdiction argument*fn1 and notes that their Motion only seeks summary judgment as to their non-infringement counterclaim (Count I), and asks to voluntarily withdraw its invalidity counterclaim (Count II). Doc. No. 90.

With briefing concluded, this matter is ripe for adjudication.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The following material and uncontested facts were set forth in this Court's prior Opinion (doc. no. 84):

Plaintiff is the owner of a method patent which patented his idea for dipping French fries (and/or other food items) into a ketchup or other condiment container (hereinafter, the '990 patent). Doc. No. 34-1. The "method" that Plaintiff patented in the '990 patent was a "method" that would allow a diner to dip a French fry (or other item) into a condiment container, obtain some condiment on the item, and then "wipe" any excess condiment from the item upon its removal from the container. Id.

Plaintiff and Defendants agree that Plaintiff met with various representatives of Defendants and corresponded with representatives of Defendants with respect to the development of a ketchup container. Doc. Nos. 4-2 to 4-7. Subsequent to meeting and corresponding with one another, Defendants manufactured and marketed the "Dip and Squeeze" container for ketchup.

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendants claiming Defendants breached an implied contract with him and were unjustly enriched by their marketing of the "Dip and Squeeze," which was predicated (per Plaintiff) on his ideas and patent. Doc. No. 4.

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff stated:

30. For years, Mr. Wawrzynski has examined and worked with condiment packaging in order to develop a more effective, portable condiment delivery system.

31. On April 29, 1996, Mr. Wawrzynski filed for a patent for Method of food article and wiping in a condiment container.

32. On October 14, 1997, Mr. Wawrzynski was issued a patent for his Method of food article dipping and ...


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