The food industry is big business. Many companies in California and elsewhere have patents on their products, and it stands to reason they want to maintain whatever edge they can in the market. They rely on patent law to provide them with the protections they need in order to stay competitive. For instance, PureCircle recently filed a lawsuit against Almendra, claiming the company infringed on its patents regarding the natural sweetener called Stevia.
Of PureCircle’s 75 patents, it claims Almendra infringed on one regarding steviol glycoside, which is a process to convert glycoside Rebaudioside D into another compound called Rebaudioside M. However, there could be an issue with this particular patent since Almendra received safe status recognition from the U.S. Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association back in 2016 for its Steviarome, but it took three more years for the company to apply for a patent on it. PureCircle just received the patent that is the subject of the lawsuit in Sept. 2019.
It is not surprising that PureCircle is fighting to protect its processes and products since approximately $480 million was made across the world in 2018 in the stevia market. Moreover, it is anticipated the market will only continue to grow as more people look for alternatives to sugar. The company posted record losses in 2019, which is most likely why it is attempting to sell 75% of it to Ingredion, which does not have the litigation experience on this issue that PureCircle does.
Ultimately, as is the case with all patent law litigation, it will be up to the courts to decide the fate of this case. However, California food manufacturers who hold patents will certainly agree that it is crucial to protect their intellectual property, especially considering the competition and wide array of choices given to consumers. Choosing to litigate these matters would most likely require the advice and assistance of experienced counsel.