Zest Labs CEO On Fighting Walmart With $2 Billion Lawsuit

August 3, 2018

By Amanda Weston

The CEO of the Silicon Valley company suing Walmart for $2 billion for allegedly stealing its fresh-food technology said he's standing up for his team's creation and his investors.

Zest Labs chief Peter Mehring said the retail behemoth's Eden system is eerily similar to his firm's Zest Fresh technology.

"We have to stand up for the intellectual property we've created and the value that our investors invested in and our customers paid for," Mehring said in an interview Friday with Cheddar.

Zest Labs announced its lawsuit Wednesday after years of working with Walmart on a way to monitor fresh produce and optimize shipping to avoid waste. The companies began collaborating in 2015, but Walmart reportedly lost interest last November.

In March 2018, Walmart said its own associates created the original Eden system in just six months. The system serves as a "digital library of food standards," and created a "freshness algorithm that prioritizes the flow of perishable goods worldwide."

Zest Labs and its parent company, Ecoark Holdings, Inc., accuse Walmart of violating trade secret laws, breach of contract, and fraud.

"We taught them a lot during the three years that we worked with them, and a lot of the approach is new," said Mehring. "We take a proactive approach to avoiding food waste in the supply chain that's really a breakthrough for the industry, and no one else has come through with this, and then to see someone suddenly announce that they're doing something similar, after having worked with us for three years is what concerned us, and what really led to this claim that we filed."

Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, told Reuters, “we respect the intellectual property rights of others" and said the company will respond to the allegations in the lawsuit in court.

Mehring said he has not heard from Walmart.

"We want to kind of move the industry," said Mehring. "Whatever moves that forward the fastest is really our goal. If settlement requires that, that's an open opportunity."

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