PureCircle, a manufacturer of stevia sweeteners(sugar substitute) for the beverage and food industry, sued its competitor SweeGen Inc. for infringing upon its patent involving Rebaudioside M in a complaint filed at the US District Court, Central District of California in Santa Ana on September 17.
Rebaudioside M is a steviol glycoside found in stevia leaves that are more than 100 times sweeter than sugar but still consist of zero calories. PureCircle claimed that SweeGen Inc. has an exclusive license agreement with Conagen (issued on July 17, 2018) which involves a method of conversion of Rebaudioside D to Rebaudioside M using UDP-glucosyltransferase (an enzyme which starts the process of addition of glycosyl to small hydrophobic molecule), same as the method covered under the plaintiff’s patent.
SweeGen, along with its licensor, has 13 patents, including at least seven novel methods for producing plant-based Rebaudioside B, and 130 patent applications pending worldwide related to stevia sweeteners. The plaintiff’s Patent was issued on January 26, 2016, involves the conversion of Rebaudioside D to Rebaudioside M by an enzyme called UDP-glucosyltransferase and makes Rebaudioside B cost effective for use in reducing sugar applications like beverages, dairy products and food items.
On February 21, 2017, SweetGen announced the commercialization of its Bestevia Rebaudioside M describing the process of its making as a ‘proprietary and patent-pending bioconversion’ and also an ‘enzymatic conversion’ which, according to the suit, uses the same method of conversion as that of the plaintiff’s.
PureCircle requests for damages in an amount to be decided at the jury trial. SweeGen has said that it will defend and protect its strong Intellectual Property position with deepest respect to innovative Intellectual Property for the benefits of customers globally.