The $800 million-per-year frozen-pizza business is heating up over charges and countercharges by the industry's two top competitors, Jeno's Inc. of Duluth, Minn., and Totino's pizza, a division of Pillsbury Co. of Minneapolis. The industry leader since the early 1970s, Jeno's has watched its slice of the market shrink to 20% since Pillsbury acquired Totino's in 1975. Fighting back, Jeno's sued Pillsbury last October for a mouthful of pizza sins, including "pizza crust patent infringement." In its suit, Jeno's maintained that Totino's had stolen the secret Jeno's crisp crust production process and had copied part of the company's packaging.
Pillsbury responded in November with a countersuit charging that Jeno's had actually copied a Pillsbury package design. After Jeno's agreed to change its box, Pillsbury last month filed a second suit claiming patent infringement by Jeno's and pointing out that Jeno's new design copies yet another Pillsbury package. Fumed Jeno's crusty founder, Jeno Paulucci, 63, as the pizza war dragged on:
"There's no arrogance quite like that of a competitor who thinks big money makes him the sole proprietor of creativity, the father of technology and owner of the rainbow." May the crispiest crust win.