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Neptune gets new US krill oil patent while announcing management shuffle

By Hank Schultz , 28-Jan-2013

Neptune Technologies and Bioressources said it will be granted a new US patent for its krill oil and has announced a management reorganization pertaining to the company’s continued efforts to recover from a fire that destroyed its manufacturing plant.

Neptune said is was granted a second US continuation patent that covers krill oil comprising phospholipid in capsules for human consumption.  The company said this patent would pertain to most of the krill oil products on the US market, meaning, in theory, that other suppliers and finished product manufacturers using krill from other suppliers would need to negotiate with Neptune for continued access to the market.

Neptune: Prior art considered in granting of patent

Neptune said it filed for the patent less than six months ago.  According to the company, the US Patent & Trademark Office granted the patent after an examination that include a look at prior art references and materials, including documentation supplied by competitor Aker BioMarine in requests it filed with USPTO for re-examination of earlier US patents obtained by Neptune.  The company also said it supplied USPTO with information from documents filed by Aker in regards to Neptune patents in Europe and Australia.

 “The fact that the USPTO has allowed a second continuation patent is an indication to us that all the prior art, experimental evidence, and arguments submitted by Aker in the different re-examination and opposition proceedings relating to the other Neptune patents have no merit,” said Tina Sampalis, M.D., Ph.D., chief of  global strategy for Neptune.

“It is becoming more and more difficult for our competitors to downplay or disregard Neptune’s patent estate.”

Aker: Patent claims are overbroad

Aker, which has its own array of intellectual property and has been locked in patent disputes with Neptune in markets around the world, was quick to respond.

“When stating in their press release that ‘all the prior art, experimental evidence, and arguments submitted by Aker in the different re-examination and opposition proceedings relating to the other Neptune patents have no merit’ Neptune has failed to consider that the United States and European Patent Offices have to this point agreed with Aker’s position that the claims in this patent family are not patentable,” Edvard Braekke, counsel for Aker BioMarine, told NutraIngredients-USA.

Braekke said Aker has been successful in a number of requests for re-examination of patents both in the US and elsewhere.

“In other words, Aker BioMarine has so far obtained the support of all patent offices in all re-examinations and oppositions regarding the validity of this patent family, and we expect this trend to continue. The claims are overbroad and should never have been allowed or granted,” he said.

It is certain that a new dispute will arise over this latest addition to the Neptune IP stable.  In a conference call earlier in January to update analysts on the progress of Neptune’s recovery plan, Andre Godin, Neptune’s chief financial officer, made a special point to reiterate that vigorous defense of patents would remain a key part of the company’s strategy.

COO steps down

Neptune has been engaged in implementing a plan to restart manufacturing operations following an explosion and fire on Nov. 8, 2012 that destroyed the company’s manufacturing facility in Sherbrooke, Québec. One new development has arisen from that recovery effort.  In what is billed as an interim move, chief operating officer Michel Chartrand will step down, though he will continue as a member of the board of directors. Chartrand’s duties will fall to CEO Henri Harland, the company said.

The company had already laid off most of its staff last fall following the fire, in which three workers lost their lives. In addition, the remaining staff, including the company’s officers, took a 20% pay cut.  In the conference call, Neptune said it expects to be back in production by the end of 2013.

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