Martek gains new Euro patent on ARA for infant formulas

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acid Eicosapentaenoic acid Fatty acid

Martek has added a new patent to its store of European intellectual
property on ARA from Mortierella alpine microorganisms for
infant formulas, reinforcing its position after an opposition
hearing in 2005 narrowed the scope of the original.

ARA (arachidonic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that occurs naturally in human breast milk and is understood to play an important role in infants' growth and development.

Martek's ARA is derived from microalgae and also contains longer-chain omega-3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

However Martek's original patent claim on its ARA was successfully challenged by competitors in 2005, resulting in an amendment that allowed other companies to make claims for ARA that does not also naturally contain EPA.

The US company remained upbeat despite this, saying that the modified claims provided it with "valuable precedent for expanding its ARA patent coverage in Europe".

Martek filed its new parent application following the outcome of the opposition hearing, covering infant formula supplemented with ARA oil from M alpina that naturally contains EPA in amounts of up to 20 per cent EPA, and methods for producting infant formulas with this ingredient.

This was drawn up so as to prevent competitors muscling in by adding EPA from other sources, such as fish oil.

Martek CEO Steve Dubin called the grant of the patent "further evidence of Martek's strong intellectual property position in Europe for infant formulas supplemented with ARA oil."

"Martek's strategy continues to be to develop multiple layers of patent protection."

On a worldwide basis the company has some 700 patents either already granted or pending.

Martek says its ARA is used in infant formulas sold in more than 60 countries worldwide.

Such use is driven by a desire to replicate the nutritional properties of breast milk as closely as possible so that babies who cannot - for whatever reason - receive their mother's milk are not at a nutritional disadvantage.

The company says that its ARA is used in 85 per cent of infant formula products sold in the United States.

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