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Dried Cranberry Rivals Both Claim Win in Patent Battle

Ocean Spray and Decas Cranberry Sales have both claimed victory in their ongoing legal fight over sweetened dried cranberries. Ocean Spray has accused Decas of stealing its patented dried cranberry technology, while Decas has accused Ocean Spray of seeking to monopolize the sweetened dried cranberry market through frivolous lawsuits.

Decas says it doesn't use Ocean Spray's technology, and it questions the timing of the patent claim. "Ocean Spray has been intimately familiar with our SDC [sweetened dried cranberry] products for over ten years," CEO Jeff Carlson said in a press release. But Ocean Spray only raised patent complaints when it attempted to buy Decas, he added -- in fact, "in the very same letter."

Decas claimed victory last week when a judge refused Ocean Spray's request to dismiss Decas' monopoly counterclaims.

But Ocean Spray says the Decas press release "failed to mention" that a judge also demanded Decas allow a third-party inspector to examine its manufacturing process, in order to determine "whether and to what extent there is infringement."

Ocean Spray says Decas has refused inspection for 18 months, but Decas denies this. "They are our largest competitor and we wanted strict controls," Carlson told FoodNavigator-USA.com. "We tried to come to an agreement with Ocean Spray to let an independent third party come and conduct an inspection. We couldn't reach an agreement on that."

Meanwhile, the National Consumers League is questioning whether some of Ocean Spray's products should even be called cranberries in the first place. Ocean Spray's "Choice" brand of sweetened dried cranberries, which is sold only to other manufacturers, is more or less just sugar flavored with cranberry skins, the group says, and it's asked the Food and Drug Administration to investigate

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