E3 Organics Inc.’s Organic Chico Wash
E3 Organics Inc.’s Organic Chico Wash
E3 Organics Inc. markets an organic wash called “Chico wash.” According to their webpage, The wash relies on a proprietary citrus blend instead of less desirable sanitizers, like chlorine.
Inventor of E3 Organics Chico Wash – Dr. Postma
Dr. James Postma is Ph.D, Chemist from CSU, Chico. He is also a U.S. EPA Consultant and a Published Author. Here is a video of Dr. Postma describing the Chico wash technology:
Postma’s Description of the Problem to be Solved
According to the Organic Chico Wash webpage:
The food-processing industry, both conventional and organic, utilizes sodium hypochlorite (bleach) as the dominant disinfectant formulation. These solutions are utilized for equipment and facility cleansing and are applied directly to food products for disinfectant purposes. Sodium hypochlorite solutions are used because they are inexpensive and familiar, but they can impart a residual odor to food products. It is also known that hypochlorite compounds will chlorinate certain molecules under typical conditions, forming chloromethane and similar compounds, which are known toxins, carcinogens and teratogens. (Fortunately, these compounds are formed in very low concentration in these contexts.) The organic food industry allows the use of hypochlorite as a disinfectant, but in our judgment, this is mostly out of necessity. It has predictable properties, but does not really fit the concept of “organic” in this context.
The Invention – preserving and killing bacteria in foods with green and organic agents
Dr. Postma developed a solution to the above described problem. Instead of using chlorine, Dr. Postma, sanitized foods with a two step process. Those two steps are: (1) treating the food with an antioxidant acid at a low pH; and then treating the food with a low concentration of ascorbic acid.
According to Dr. Postma and his team of researchers, the studies showed up to 4-log reductions and “better antimicrobial activities against both Salmonella Newport and background microflora (bacteria, yeast and molds) than 200 ppm chlorine and water washes.” See the Packer.
The Patent Application
On Aug 19, 2004, the inventors filed a patent application on “Food grade natural/organic method for treating food.” The application claimed “methods of preserving and killing bacteria in foods to maintain the natural color of the foods and prevent discoloration of the foods from bruising and scarring.” (It is unclear why the inventors did not pursue composition of matter claims instead of only method claims).
The application filed was U.S. Patent Application No. 10/922,065. But that application was allowed to go abandoned on October 9th, 2008 because the patent applicants did not respond to an Office Action sent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The applicants attempted to revive the patent application by filing a petition. But those attempts were not successful.
The Road Ahead without a patent
E3 Organics Inc. sells the Chico Wash solution in 1-gallon, 55-gallon drums, 360-gallon totes. They also sell tanker loads. According to the company, they are ramping up distribution. And the data suggests that the wash works very well.
Here’s the unfortunately issue, although the product is”[d]erived from a proprietary citric acid blend,” the inventors failed to get a patent on that proprietary blend.
Patenting their proprietary citric acid blend would have allowed them to exclude all competitors from the market. They would have been the only company allowed to sell the solution that comes in those 1 gallon, 55-gallon drums, 360 gallon totes, and tanker loads. Likewise, the method claims would have given the patentees the exclusive right to practice the methods of preserving and killing bacteria in foods using those compositions. But, without that patent, any other company can make, use or sell this technology. It is not proprietary anymore.
Does E3 Need a Patent?
Many entrepreneurs and inventors ask if they need a patent. See Do I need a patent to go on Shark Tank. The short answer is no. The E3 organics company does not need a patent to sell the Chico wash. However, without that patent, no one else needs a patent to sell Chico wash either.
Having a patent would have given the patentees the exclusive rights to make, use, or sell the invention. They would have had a monopoly on the technology. Without that patent, they are still welcome to sell the product. But they are now selling into a market that is open to competitors.
Is there anything E3 can do to get patents now?
Unfortunately, the earlier filed application went abandoned after it published. The contents of that application fell into the public domain. Accordingly, E3 cannot pursue patent protection for anything disclosed in that application. The claims would not be new (or different) when compared to today’s technology. However, E3 may have made some improvements in the course of its business. E3 may have refined some of its formulas and methods. In that case, they could draft patent claims and file patent applications directed to that specific technology. This is not the ideal case. But it may provide a way to capture some patent coverage on their subsequent innovations.