Kaneka said it had filed actions in the Tribunal de Grand Instance of Paris, France, and the Düsseldorf Regional Court, Germany, citing violations of its CoQ10 manufacturing patent (No. 1,466,983).
“The legal proceedings are against Chinese manufacturers and distributors of coenzyme Q10, as well as their European distributors,” the company said in a statement, but would not release further details about the companies involved.
Kaneka seeks damages and an injunction against future infringement of its patent.
The actions follow similar patent infringement legal proceedings Kaneka launched in 2009 against Xiamen Kingdomway Vitamin Inc and Pacific Rainbow Inc in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
In those cases, both Kingdomway and Pacific Rainbow agreed to discontinue selling ubiquinol products in the US. Ubiquinol is a form of CoQ10 marketed by Kaneka as Kaneka QH.
"Kaneka has been the leading developer of many significant improvements in the production and quality of coenzyme Q10" said Yoshimi Uchida, general manager of QOL Division at Kaneka.
"We will vigorously defend these rights and immediately initiate court proceedings to enforce our intellectual property rights. We are taking these steps to protect the results of our research and development and to avoid the unlawful use of Kaneka's innovations."
European supplements market
Kaneka launched Kaneka QH in Europe in May 2008 and announced it was increasing its attempts to target the CoQ10 supplements market which had failed to grow as had those in Japan and the US.
It gave Kaneka QH a global debut in the US in 2007.
CoQ10 is an ingredient with known bioavailability issues although there is evidence backing health benefits ranging from cardiovascular support, energy-boosting properties to antioxidant-free radical control.
EFSA says no
However the CoQ10 sector was dealt a blow last month when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) health claims panel ruled that CoQ10 did not benefit a range of conditions.
In an article 13.1 opinion, EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) found causality had not been demonstrated between consumption of CoQ10 and:
- normal energy-yielding metabolism
- maintenance of normal blood pressure
- protection of DNA, proteins or lipids from oxidative damage
- normal cognitive function
- maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations
- an increase in endurance capacity and/or endurance performance.
The NDA opinion can be found here.
Kaneka’s ingredient is marketed on boosted bioavailability due to the presence of vitamins and enzymes in the proprietary formulation.
Kaneka supplies a naturally fermented form of CoQ10 and is the biggest of four Japanese suppliers that dominate the global CoQ10 market. The others are Niishin, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical and Asahi.
While demand remains strong for the ingredient, particularly in the US and Japan, the raw material price has dropped out of the market as new supply channels have come on-board in places like China.
In addition, Kaneka, Nisshin and Mitsubishi have expanded supply which has contributed to excess capacity and placed further downward pressure on spot prices.
The global CoQ10 market is estimated at more than €500m by various market analysts, and its use has been boosted, particularly in the US, by the rise of statin drugs that have become popular to fight heart disease, high blood pressure and control cholesterol build-up.
Statin drugs deplete the body's natural stores of CoQ10 and are particularly popular with over-40s males.