PureCircle to appeal Sweegen’s victory in stevia Rebaudioside M patent lawsuit
25 May 2022 --- Global wellness ingredient technology expert Sweegen has won a patent lawsuit involving stevia Rebaudioside M (Reb M) against PureCircle by Ingredion.
PureCircle, acquired by Ingredion in 2020, filed the lawsuit in 2018 against Sweegen in the US district court for the Central District of California, accusing Sweegen of infringing two PureCircle patents covering the manufacture of Reb M.
Nate Yates, global platform leader, sugar reduction & specialty sweeteners, Ingredion, tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “We are disappointed with the court’s ruling and intend to file an appeal to continue to vigorously defend our intellectual property.”
The statement is all Ingredion is prepared to share at this time, he says.
Meanwhile, Steven Chen, CEO, Sweegen says the judgment vindicates Sweegen.
The case swung in Sweegen’s favor when the company obtained a summary judgment that both PureCircle’s asserted patents are invalid. Because it is impossible to infringe an invalid patent, the court’s invalidation of the asserted patents ends the infringement case against Sweegen.
“We’ve always maintained that PureCircle’s case against Sweegen was spurious and we would prevail,” Chen tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“In the last four years, our belief and trust in our intellectual property has supported the growth of Sweegen’s robust proprietary portfolio of signature sweeteners and has enabled us to explore commercialization of sweet proteins such as brazzein and thaumatin,” he says.
Victory is sweet with stevia
New labeling guidance from the European Commission was issued in 2021 for stevia-based sweeteners. Steviol glycosides (E 960) have been renamed “Steviol glycosides from stevia (E 960a).”
At the time, FoodIngredientsFirst examined how companies and brands can begin taking advantage of the labeling update and get ahead of regulatory changes slated for January 2023.
Sweegen is the primary producer of the non-GMO Reb M from the stevia leaf, made with a proprietary clean bioconversion method. Sweeteners in their portfolio include Bestevia Rebs B, D, E, I, M, N, and brazzein. The company also formulates flavor modulators and texturants.
In 2021, the company’s Bestevia Rebaudioside M (Reb M) stevia sweetener was in its final phase for European Union approval. As a result, Sweegen fast-tracked the non-GMO Bestevia Reb M commercial scale-up at its manufacturing facility in Europe, anticipating the published approval.
“As a holder of core proprietary technologies of wellness ingredients, Sweegen vigorously guards its intellectual property rights and respects others,” adds Chen.
“We have always maintained that PureCircle’s patents were invalid and its case against Sweegen spurious.”
Sweegen is also commercializing Bestevia Rebaudioside N (Reb N). The zero-calorie natural stevia molecule is produced through a patented bioconversion technology from the biotech company Conagen.
The sensory profile of Bestevia Reb N makes it particularly functional in beverage formats, which is an application space that has already been exclusively licensed out. With a taste profile closer to both full-calorie and high-intensity sweeteners, Reb N also works very well in a variety of food formulations.
Stevia Rebaudioside M guidelines
Most stevia varieties contain minor quantities of naturally occurring Reb M, which has made it historically difficult to sustainably scale the ingredient.
Earlier this year, PureCircle voiced its support for the Codex Alimentarius adopting the processes of bioconversion and fermentation used in stevia-based Reb M production into its guidelines.
This addition enables PureCircle by Ingredion to sell Reb M and a range of proprietary blends from its bioconversion process as well as Reb M from fermentation (also referred to as Fermented Sugarcane Reb M).
Next to PureCircle, Codex Alimentarius’ inclusion was recently applauded by other players across the stevia space, including Sweegen. The range complements its existing commercialized stevia sweetener and taste modifier portfolio, offered across South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
By Inga de Jong
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.