Natural has the exclusive licensing rights to the use of CLA in dietary supplements as covered by the patents developed by at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (WARF). It has also developed its own portfolio of patents based on proprietary synthesis, production methods, and compositions for CLA. The combination of these patent portfolios - which natural says is a "significant commercial asset" - is the basis of Natural's agreements with Cognis, Lipid Nutrition and BASF. The company and WARF jointly filed a lawsuit against French supplements-maker ArkoPharma in June 2006. Under the settlement, ArkoPharma has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount in compensation, and to source all its CLA for supplements from Nature's licensees in the future. The settlement sends a clear signal that companies active in the CLA market are keeping a tight rein on their patents. Research on the benefits of CLA is stacking up, particularly in the area of weight management and increasing lean body mass - hot topics given the global obesity epidemic. "The strength of our patent portfolio, should be a wake-up call for other possible parties involved in the production and sale of non-licensed CLA," said Natural managing director Jostein Dalland. Both Cognis and Lipid Nutrition count CLA as one of the core ingredients in their product ranges. Cognis has the exclusive rights for production and sale of CLA under Natural's Tonalin trademark, said to be the best-selling brand in both supplements and foods. The composition of Tonalin has been optimised for fat reduction. Natural said it has been "optimised for a fat-reducing effect and is produced according to a proprietary process that yields the highest quality CLA available on the market". Lipid Nutrition, a division of Loders Croklaan, licensed Natural's patents for its Clarinol brand of CLA. In early 2006 it bought the CLA One businesses from PharmaNutrients. Meanwhile US-based PharmaNutrients announced earlier this month that it is looking to take CLA into the heart health arena, after obtaining the exclusive worldwide rights to the Kritchevsky patent on reduction of atherosclerotic plaques. Owned by the Wistar Institute, the patent, entitled "Use of CLA for the treatment of atherosclerotic plaque reduction" was invented by the late Dr David Kritchevsky, Caspar Wistar Scholar at the institute. It covers all market segments including food, dietary supplements and pharmaceutical preparations. The company's current focus is on finding a pharmaceutical partner to work on the next stage of research.