Mars said the action, filed in the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, was in line with its commitment to, “vigorously enforce its patent portfolio”.
Neither Naturex, a French-based herbal extracts supplier, nor Nutraceuticals (a Californian supplements manufacturer) or Florida based non-profit, Life Extension Foundation, were available for comment at the time of publication.
Naturex manufacturers a cocoa flavanol extract called Cocoactiv while Nutraceuticals markets Solaray products and Life Extension has Cocoa Gold products. The Nutraceuticals and Life extension products both employ Naturex’s Cocoactiv.
The suit requests an injunction be granted to stop infringing sales and the promotion of the supplements for patented uses.
“This litigation follows the successful enforcement last year of some of the same patents. As standard practice, Mars watches for infringements of its cocoa flavanol patents and reacts appropriately,” Mars spokesperson Hugo Pérez told NutraIngredients-USA.com.
Mars has been researching cocoa flavanols for about 20 years and launched CirkuHealth via its Mars Botanical division in 2009.
The ingredient is made using a patented process called Cocoapro, said to accurately measure active compound levels and, by reducing exposure to high temperatures, providing greater protection for flavanols.
This process allows CirkuHealth to claim about 550mg of flavanols per gram.
Mars has also launched a supplement beverage powder mix called CirkuHealth.
Mars has in the past made a point of the fact that although dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is commonly perceived to be healthier than sweetened confections with low cocoa levels, cocoa percentage is not actually a reliable measure of health benefits.
This is because fermentation, drying and roasting, all of which help develop the flavor of chocolate, may reduce the flavanol content.
Mars Botanical is also investigating tea, wine, and other fruits and vegetables.
Clarification: After publication Mars said it did not contact Naturex prior to lodging the suit, as NI-USA had originally been informed. The story has been altered to reflect this change.