Patent Lawsuit Against Stevia Suppliers

PureCircle USA, Inc. a subsidiary of PureCircle Ltd. and PureCircle, Sdn Bhd, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court against Sweegen, Inc. claiming that Sweegen’s and Blue California’s Bestevia® are infringing its patent (U.S. Patent No. 9,243,273) which is a method for making Rebaudioside X (Reb-M) is a sweetener derived from Stevia Plant. It was claimed in the lawsuit by PureCircle that Bestevia Rebaudioside M is made by converting Rebaudioside D to Rebaudioside X, also known as Reb M, by using an enzyme called UDP-glucosyltransferase. According to the lawsuit, PureCircle owns or co-owns 77 U.S. patents and is the major producer of stevia globally and due to high demand of sweeteners in the market they are planning to increase the production by 200%.[1]

Sweegen is engaged in selling zero-calorie, Non-GMO Project verified, plant-based Reb-M and Reb-D for use in the food and the beverage industry. The products offered by companies for using stevia sweetners include carbonated beverages, juices, yogurts, ice-creams, nutritional foods, and confectionary goods.  Sweegen, Inc. holds 13 patents along with 130 pending patent applications worldwide regarding stevia sweeteners and is focused on providing next generation stevia sweeteners by including at least 7 novel methods for producing plant-based, Non-GMO, Reb M.[2] The technology is used to make Reb M, which is found sparingly in the stevia leaf and is used in reducing sugar applications like beverages, dairy products and other foods. According to the lawsuit, the patent was issued on 16th January, 2016 and Sweegen on Feb. 21, 2017 announced the commercialization of its Bestevia Rebaudioside M and described the process for making it as a “proprietary and patent pending bioconversion” and also an “enzymatic conversion”. The lawsuit further said that SweeGen has an exclusive license agreement with Conagen, which owns U.S. Patent No. 10,023,604 and the patent involves method for converting Reb D to Reb M. The lawsuit said that based on information received, it is derived that defendants have committed infringement buy making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing, advertising and/or promoting products in the district and the state of California that infringes one or more claims of the patent-in-suit. It is presumed that SweeGen will definitely defend and protect strong IP position against the competitor for the benefits of global customers.

Author: Ms. Deepika Sharma, Sr. Patent Associate and Rishabh, Intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at  deepika@iiprd.com.

References:

[1]https://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/12535-stevia-suppliers-face-off-in-patent-lawsuit

[2]https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sweegens-statement-regarding-purecircle-lawsuit-300715090.html

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