NAI sues GNC, others over infringement of beta-alanine patents

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

An image of the Volt product from NAI's complaint.
An image of the Volt product from NAI's complaint.
Natural Alternatives International has sued GNC and two other companies over alleged patent infringement for the manufacture, distribution and sale of a preworkout supplement featuring high levels of beta-alanine.

NAI alleges in the suit that two patents it holds that cover its CarnoSyn beta-alanine are infringed upon by a product called Neon Sport Volt.  In the suit NAI names as defendants Woodbolt Distribution (also known as Cellucor), GNC Corporation and Bodybuilding.com.  NAI also is seeking a preliminary injunction on the manufacture, importation or sale of the product.

NAI's complaint is based on two patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 8,067,381 ("the '381 patent") and 8,129,422 ("the '422 patent"), both titled "Methods and compositions for increasing the anaerobic working capacity in tissues”​ and issued in 2011 and 2012, respectively.  The complaint alleges that Woodbolt is marketing the Neon Sport Volt product as specifically formulated to contain high amounts of beta-alaine.  Product promotional literature quoted in the complainted included statements such as "[a]n in your face, high energy pre-workout with unmatched doses of beta-alanine" ​and and that "Volt's signature ingredient is surely beta-alanine, and at max dose, Volt delivers, in many cases, more than 2x the amount of max dosed competing products."

"NAI's suit alleges that Woodbolt decided to launch a blatantly infringing beta-alanine product, Volt™, as a pre-workout supplement containing high amounts of beta-alanine.  The suit also alleges infringement by GNC and BodyBuilding.com for marketing and distributing the infringing product.  The defendants are well aware of NAI's '381 and '422 patents,"​ said Mark A. LeDoux, CEO of NAI. "NAI will continue to take steps to protect and defend its valuable intellectual property portfolio."

Distribution began in June

The product was launched in May and began widespread distribution through GNC stores in June, according to the complaint.  The complaint stated further that Woodbolt had imported 33,600 kilograms of beta-alanine from a Chinese supplier in May and June.

NAI has also sued Woodbolt for infringement of the '381 and '422 patents on other Woodbolt products – C4 Extreme, M5 Extreme, N0 Extreme, BCAA and Cre. That case is pending in the Southern District court of Texas.

GNC has captured an increasing share of the sports nutrition market in recent years.  In 2011, the company said it had 25% of the market, and in a statement in early June of this year it said it had boosted that share to 27%.  In addition to third party products like Volt, GNC sells its own sports products such as AMP Wheybolic 60, Beyond RAW, Revo and Reloaded.

GNC has a corporate policy of not commenting on pending litigation.  Efforts to reach Woodbolt for comment were unsuccessful.

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