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Ruling issued in ZMC, Kaneka in CoQ10 patent dispute

By Hank Schultz

03-Dec-2015
Last updated on 03-Dec-2015 at 18:04 GMT2015-12-03T18:04:33Z

Image © iStockPhoto / KUO CHUN HUNG
Image © iStockPhoto / KUO CHUN HUNG

Chinese CoQ10 supplier ZMC and Kaneka, the Japanese company that pioneered a process for producing the dietary ingredient, have apparently reached a milestone in their longstanding patent dispute. Details of the ruling have been sealed, but one stakeholder characterized it as a “victory” for ZMC.

Johnny Jin, CEO of ZMC-USA, a distribution partner of ZMC (also known as Zhejiang Medicine Co., Ltd), called the decision of the court to cancel an upcoming trial date as  “the latest victory for ZMC in its long-standing dispute with Kaneka.” Jin said the decision, which grants the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgement, means that the court has ruled that ZMC and ZMC-USA “do not infringe Kaneka Corporation’s patent on a process for making coenzyme Q10.”

No wrong doing

Scott Steinford, president of the CoQ10 Association, which brings together suppliers of the ingredient, was somewhat more circumspect about the implications of the court’s ruling. It’s impossible to know precisely where matters stand between the parties with the sealing of the documents, Steinford said. 

“Neither side is providing clear terms of the settlement but the indication is ZMC has been cleared of any wrong doing, consistent with the rulings provided in Germany and Washington, D.C.,” Steinford told NutraIngredients-USA.

CoQ10 is a vital part of the body’s energy production machinery in the mitochondria. One key indication for CoQ10 supplementation is in connection with statin usage, which has been shown to depress CoQ10 levels. Evidence exists that points to CoQ10 supplementation as a way to ameliorate the muscle pain and weakness that many statin users report, enabling them to remain on the cholesterol-lowering medications.

Steinford said the key takeaway for the market is that the patent dispute, which has been vigorous pursued by Kaneka against fellow Japanese company Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and against ZMC and other Chinese companies and against that brought lower-priced CoQ10 offerings into the market, has not and is not expected to affect supply of the ingredient.

Stable supply

“The CoQ10 Association is confident this action will be summarily concluded with this settlement with no detrimental effect on the marketplace. No market disruption has occurred on a supply/demand level. Additionally, the quality and reliability of all parties involved has been consistent and positive. Only one defendant, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, has ceased production of CoQ10 since Kaneka initiated litigation actions in March 2011. Other CoQ10 ingredient manufacturers have increased capacity to more than replace what was removed from the market with Mitsubishi’s departure,” Steinford said.

Steinford said demand for the ingredient, which is one of the body’s endogenous antioxidants and thus also has a potential role in healthy inflammation support formulas, continues to ramp up, despite the patent dispute storm clouds.

Overall, CoQ10 supply and demand has continued to increase at double digit annual rates despite any conflicts which could have arisen from this litigation. The short and long term outlook remain stable and positive for CoQ10 as an ingredient,” he said.

Kaneka did not respond to a request for comment on the patent settlement in time for the posting of this story.

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