Tropicana's fight to keep its patent for the production of not-from-concentrate orange juice could drag out for years, according to reports from the US.

The US Office of Patents and Trademarks having revoked Tropicana's tradmark, after it found that, has said it will re-examine the issue after an appeal from the juice maker and Pepsi subsidiary. The examination could take two years.

"What they basically look for is whether the product is new, has a utility and is non-obvious," said Ruth Nyblod, a spokeswoman for the Patent and Trademark Office.

If examiners find that the patent meets its criteria, then the patent will stand.

The US Patent office ruled that technology used to blend several types of oranges was not exclusive to Tropicana. The technology, in effect required growers of certain varieties of early-season juice to sell crops only to Tropicana, allowing Tropicana to produce Not From Concentrate (NFC) juice from fresh fruit about two months earlier than its competitors.

Florida Citrus Mutual, which challenged Tropicana's right to the patent, said the juice producer's practice of blending orange varieties was already common in the juice industry.

But Tropicana is arguing contends that the oranges named in the appeal - Earlygold, Itaborai, Westin and Ruby - were developed for use as ready-to-eat oranges only.
 
"We don't dispute that research was done by the University of Florida, but it was for table fruit not for juice," Nickel said. "The research that went into our juice-making process was conducted by Tropicana."

The patent will stand during any appeal process.