Lawyers, especially patent lawyers, are artists in the medium of obfuscation. Much of the job is finding the fuzzy areas at the edges of seemingly straightforward language and tugging at them to suit your needs. At best, it leads to moments of mad brilliance that Van Gogh might envy.
So it was in the case (fast becoming one of my favorites in the district) of a Markman dispute in Impossible Foods Inc. v. Motif Foodworks, Inc., C.A. No. 22-311-WCB (D. Del. Aug. 15, 2023).
The term in question was "non-animal."
As you probably gathered from the caption, the patent covered various fake meats (Facon, Soysauge, Ham-pty promises) with "non-animal" ingredients.
Being naturally averse to spoilers, I read the opinion until I got to the disputed term, and then stopped to ask myself "what could the dispute possibly be?" before peaking into the parties' arguments. I sat there a full 10 minutes before shaking my head and giving up.
As it happens, it was more reasonable than it looks at first blush. Impossible argued for the definition I'd immediately jumped to—not from an animal (or in the parlance of lawyers "derived from a non-animal source"). Motif's position, however was that the particular ingredients had to be chemicals (here, proteins) that were "not naturally present in animals" as opposed to merely not harvested from animals in this instance.
Judge Bryson ultimately sided with Impossible for boring science and law reasons. But game recognizes game, so I felt obliged to call out this impressive little dispute. I hope you readers are as inspired as I was.