In the suit, filed in Utah in conjunction with the owner of the patent (referred to as the ’888 patent), Softgel Formulators, Inc., Thorne alleges that Xymogen willfully infringed on the patent. The suit seeks “all damages attributable to the infringement of the ’888 patent to be proven at trial, but not less than a reasonable royalty.”
The patent in question, issued on July 23, 2013, is for a “highly absorbable CoQ10 formulation and method for producing same.” The key of the invention is a CoQ10 formulation that contains no crystals detectible down to a mangnification of 640x. This results in what the inventors say is a highly bioavailable formulation, as compared to traditional cyrstalline formulations. in gelcaps.
The invention also covers other constituents of the CoQ10 formula, namely EPA/DHA marine oils, flax seed oil, or other carrier oils. These carrier oils act as transporters for the CoQ10 as it is absorbed in the body.
Information provided in the patent indicated that in a 36-hour absorption study with 20 subjects, two versions of the patented formulation showed up to 256% greater relative bioavailability than a dry crystalline powder in hard shell capsules or tablets. Total absorption of the patented coQ10 formulation was up to 785% greater than the crystalline powder.
CoQ10 has properties similar to vitamins, but since it is naturally synthesised in the body it is not classed as such. With chemical structure 2,3-dimethoxy-5-methyl-6-decaprenyl-1,4-benzoquinone, it is also known as ubiquinone because of its 'ubiquitous' distribution throughout the human body.
CoQ10's role in body
The coenzyme is concentrated in the mitochondria - the 'power plants' of the cell - and plays a vital role in the production of chemical energy by participating in the production of adenosince triphosphate (ATP), the body's so-called 'energy currency'.
There is an ever-growing body of scientific data that shows substantial health benefits of CoQ10 supplementation for people suffering from angina, heart attack and hypertension. The nutrient is also recommended to people on statins to off-set the CoQ-depleting effects of the medication. Other studies have reported that CoQ10 may play a supportive role in neuro-degenerative diseases.
The popularity of CoQ10, particularly in supplements, has been boosted by the rise in the prescription of statin drugs which deplete the body's natural stores of CoQ10.
History of patent struggles
The CoQ10 market has witnessed a long-standing, high-profile patent struggle between Japan-based Kaneka and its Chinese competitor ZMC and others. The International Trade Commission in late 2012 terminated a patent infringement suit brought by Kaneka against ZMC and seven other CoQ10 suppliers, including Zhejiang Medicine Co. Ltd., ZMC-USA, LLC, Xiamen Kingdomway Group Company, Pacific Rainbow International, Inc, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, Inc., Maypro Industries, Inc., and Shenzou Biology & Technology Co., Ltd. Mitsubishi has since exited the market, ceasing CoQ10 production in March.