Patent number: 11419586—sampling device with ejectable compartment. Patent number: 11406115—heat resistant confections. Patent number: 11395478—markers for determining the biological age of a dog. Patent number: 11363828—Palatable beverages and compositions with cocoa extract. Patent number: D901129—confectionery piece.
These are all recent patents assigned to Mars Incorporated, the large company most well-known for products like Mars bars, M&M’s, Snickers, Twix, Orbit gum, and other popular candies. But Mars is much more than a candy and gum company. The organization founded more than one hundred years ago in Tacoma, Washington, makes everything from pasta to ready-made meals to pet food. It also is the largest pet nutrition and veterinary services provider on the planet.
Today, the global food and veterinary care provider headquartered in Virginia employs about 140,000 staff and around $40 billion in annual sales. Research and development, technology, and a robust trademark and patent portfolio power everything the company does. Mars received its first patent in 1947 and has since accumulated a grand total of 5,669 patent applications from bodies like the US Patent and Trademark Office, European Patent Office, and World Intellectual Property Organization.
Rebecca Barnett spent nearly eight years inside the company starting in 2015, eventually serving as assistant general counsel of IP, patents and technology for Mars Corporate, Mars Food, and a life sciences division known as Mars Edge. For much of that time, she focused on efforts in quality food production, sustainability, and supporting the Mars pet care division as it transitioned from traditional pet foods and products to pet services businesses. The pet care division already owned the Banfield Pet Hospital chain when it bought BluerPearl Veterinary Partners in 2015. It later acquired VCA in the US and the Linnaeus Group in the UK.
Mars’s various legal functions remain versatile and provide advice in quickly developing areas of technology and law as the company continues to evolve. That’s one part of her time at Mars Barnett enjoys most.
“My favorite days at Mars include meeting with Mars associates to discuss their exciting and innovative ideas and providing legal support in an effort to build our intellectual property portfolio, which covers some of the world’s best-loved pet food brands and also the world’s largest veterinary health group,” she told the Nashville Business Journal in 2019.
These efforts and overall IP assets like patents, trade secrets, and copyrights remain critical to the ongoing success of the entire organization, as Mars pours time, money, and human capital into products and innovation. Its lawyers vigorously defend and protect these assets to generate maximum profits and business growth. IP counsel and other lawyers within the department understand Mars’ strategy and are prepared to identify novel inventions so emerging methods and technologies are protected, implemented, leveraged, monetized, and defended with proper partnerships and agreements in place as necessary.
This has been part of the Mars vision for many years. “We’re powered by science and the desire to be bold in order to create a better world for us all, today,” the company states on its website. It may have started when Frank Mars began making butter cream candy from his simple home kitchen, but now the company aims to address climate change, make positive impacts on pet nutrition and behavior, and find new ways to feed people around the world.
In 2017, Mars announced the Mars Sustainable in a Generation Plan, a multibillion-dollar initiative designed to reduce its environmental footprint, pursue net-zero emissions, support farmers, nourish well-being, and build stronger communities, where people and pets are healthy. Mars is addressing how it sources cocoa and other raw materials, fishes for pet food ingredients, enacts a supply chain, and does business in a post-pandemic environment.
Additionally, Mars Wrigley is investing $1 billion on a new cocoa supply chain model anchored by smallholder farmers. It also uses renewable energy to produce all M&M’s. Similar efforts extend throughout the entire organization. “Our plan is built on what is right, not what is easy—it is science-based and in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” said chief procurement and sustainability officer Barry Parkin in a press release.
Strong IP protections enable these efforts and strengthen the company as it moves forward, and the potential is massive. Associates at Mars Petcare, Wrigley, Food, and Edge work together tirelessly to build what the company calls “Better food today. A better world tomorrow.”
“I have had the pleasure of working with Becca over the years. I could not be happier for her well-deserved recognition. I look forward to continuing our partnership for years to come.”
—Sandra Lee, Partner