Nutratech and Syntech continue bitter orange patent dispute

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

An inquiry is under way, it has emerged, in yet another patent
infringement case for the dietary supplement industry. This time
the two parties battling it out are Nutratech and Syntech SSPF
International, over the use of patented citrus aurantium.

Nutratech distributes branded Advantra Z citris aurantium​ worldwide and issued a statement on May 18 about the ongoing legal dispute. Advantra Z holds US patents for uses such as stimulating thermogenesis, weight loss, increasing lean muscle mass, improving athletic performance and suppressing appetite. While Nutratech accuses Syntech of infringing use patents, the former claims the citrus aurantium​ it sells is not especially made or adapted to any particular use that would lead it to infringing patents. Patents are lucrative business for companies investing in research and development, and the fear of losing out on years of work to a commodity ingredient prods many a company to the courts. "We want to make sure our efforts benefit our customers rather than those who choose to use scientifically unsupported generic citrus aurantium material in their diet and sports nutrition products while riding the coattails of our considerable investment in product development, research and marketing,"​ Nutratech president Bob Green, told NutraIngredients-USA. The case has been going on for nearly a year. In November, California-based Syntech argued Nutratech has no evidence consumers are using weight loss products containing Syntech's citrus aurantium​ extract. Then in December, at Nutratech's request, the court allowed additional time to conduct a discovery before considering whether to dismiss the case on summary judgment. The case is pending all the while fingers continue to be pointed. "…Citrus aurantium has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine,"​ Peter Veregge, attorney with Cislo & Thomas LLP, the firm representing Syntech, told NutraIngredients-USA. "Citrus aurantium extract has substantial noninfringing uses, and the summary judgment motion included numerous examples of noninfringing products." ​ In the court documents from the Central District of California, Syntech has alleged citrus aurantium​ extract is a "staple article of commerce suitable for substantial noninfringing use"​. As part of the discovery New Jersey-based Nutratech is asking to see how much of Syntech's actual sales of citrus aurantium​ are used for infringing or noninfringing purposes. Nutratech is the exclusive global distributor of Advantra Z for weight loss and sports nutrition. The patents are issued to Zhishin for specific applications, the numbers of which are: US patents 6,224,873; 6,316,499; 6,340,481 and 6,340,482. In addition, there are further US and international patents pending on Advantra Z. Nutratech claims to have more than 150 customers currently using Advantra Z in their formulas - including customers who use co-branding on their labels to advertise the fact they are including Advantra Z. "It is important that companies using Citrus aurantium/bitter orange in their products understand what they are getting,"​ said Green. "With Advantra Z, they know they are buying a patented ingredient that has been studied in a variety of independent lab tests with a wealth of publicity and awareness surrounding it."

Related topics: Regulation, Polyphenols

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