The global food-processing giant yesterday announced in a letter to its customers that it is to take Sabinsa Corporation to court for infringing patents on its Genimax isoflavone products.
The move comes just a few years after ADM was itself embroiled in an isoflavone patent case with soy ingredients supplier Solae. The St Louis-based company had accused ADM in 2003 of infringing one of its patents, an issue that was quietly resolved last year when ADM acquired Solae's global soy isoflavone business, including its entire portfolio of US and foreign patents.
But now ADM is on the other side of the fence.
The firm claimed in its letter to customers it has "undertaken considerable research and development efforts to create novel soy-based products, processes and applications," and that Sabinsa has "unlawfully" made, imported and sold its Genimax soy-based isoflavone products.
For its part, Sabinsa declined to comment beyond a formal statement that said the company "respects innovative patents within our industry and we value the intellectual property rights of all industry organizations." It added it was "confident" the matter would be resolved quickly.
ADM was unavailable for immediate comment.
Soy isoflavones are well known phytoestrogens - active substances derived from plants that have a weak estrogen-like action.
They have been shown to provide a number of health benefits, including the promotion of heart health and the maintenance of bone health in post-menopausal women.
They have also been studied for their role in cancer prevention and slowing down the ageing process in peri-menopausal women, and have proved to be a popular alternative to hormone replacement therapy for those wishing to control menopause symptoms without resorting to drugs.
ADM is one of the leading suppliers of soy isoflavones along with Acatris and Solbar.
In July last year, Acatris reached a deal with ADM allowing it to use substantial intellectual property covering isoflavones and women's health.
The patents were previously held by Solae and included a range of general patents on isoflavones from all sources, as well as use patents for women's health.
And as health-promoting foods continue to rise in popularity, isoflavones have seen strong demand.
"There's a lot of money to be made in the isoflavone business," said Dr Ignace Debruyne, formerly of the American Soybean Association.
"Some companies have developed products and processes and want to protect these, which is why everyone is playing so hard," he told FoodNavigator-USA.com