A panel of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in Martek’s favour on all four counts of patent infringement involving Lonza’s US sale of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in functional foods and dietary supplements.
Lonza has the right to request a re-hearing, but was unavailable for comment by the time of publication to determine if it would be pursuing this course of action.
Martek spokeswoman Cassie France-Kelly told NutraIngredients-USA.com the verdict represented “a great win” for Martek in a case that dates back to 2006.
She confirmed that Lonza is now forbidden from selling any product that infringes Martek’s DHA omega-3 patents in the US, at least up until a re-hearing takes place.
The patents include claims covering food and dietary supplement applications for human consumption.
While two of the patents have now expired, two others have expiration dates in August 2011 and December 2014 respectively.
The Federal Circuit upheld a Martek patent directed to certain fermentation methods used to produce fatty acids such as DHA and reversed the trial court’s interpretation of certain claim language involving methods of increasing the concentration of microbial omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA in an animal.
While the lower court ruled the term ‘animal’ excluded humans, the Federal Circuit concluded that the term ‘animal’ does include humans and remanded the patent to trial court for further proceedings consistent with this interpretation.
“Martek’s policy is to vigorously defend its patent portfolio and these rulings demonstrate the value of this approach,” said Steve Dubin, CEO of Martek Biosciences. “Martek’s strategy continues to be to develop multiple layers of patent protection.”
Last month, Martek announced revenues for the third quarter of $77.8m, down 12 percent from the comparative 2008 period. It cited de-stocking of inventory by some of its infant formula customers as the reason for the fall in sales.