US health ingredient manufacturer Kemin Foods has filed a lawsuit against a pigment company claiming that it is infringing on two patents it holds for the manufacture of its FloraGLO brand of purified lutein.
The lawsuit against Pigmentos Vegetales (PIVEG), a Mexican manufacturer of poultry pigments, was filed this week in the US Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. Kemin is seeking an injunction against PIVEG's 'continued infringement' of US patents 5,382,714 and 5,648,564 and damages for the 'knowing, willful and wanton nature' of its conduct. It is also looking for compensation for the fees and costs it incurs through the case.
This is not the first time Kemin has sued to protect its lutein product. Late last year Kemin took leading supplement manufacturer Cognis to court claiming that its marketing material was misleading and blurred the differences between lutein esters and the purified form of lutein made by Kemin.
Commenting on this week's events, Dr Rodney L. Ausich, Kemin Foods president, said: "PIVEG's marketing materials claim that the company's lutein product is 'free lutein' and is 'derived from marigolds'. This led our scientists to conduct an in-house analysis of the products - the results of which are wholly consistent with infringement."
He added: "Since we believe that PIVEG knew of Kemin's legally issued patents, we are left with no choice but to take legal action against a company that is knowingly infringing those patents."
Patent 5,382,714 concerns the isolation and purification process carried out by Kemin to obtain purified lutein. The second patent protects the "Process for the Formation, Isolation and Purification of Comestible Xanthophyll Crystals From Plants" and was issued to Rodney L. Ausich and David Sanders on July 15, 1997.
Kemin's FloraGLO lutein is used in more than 100 multivitamins and dietary supplements, and is increasingly seen as an important ingredient in eye health. FloraGLO is the only lutein that is GRAS for specific food and beverage applications, and the company has recently seen the launch of two functional beverages in the US which contain its lutein.