Neptune granted krill oil patent, opposition remains

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Patent

A composition and matter patent granted to Canadian supplier
Neptune Technologies & Bioresources for its omega-3 and
antioxidants boosted krill-based ingredients last year has been
validated by the European Patent Office.

The patent protects Neptune's phospholipid and flavonoid compositions and will apply in 24 European countries with immediate effect although it has been opposed by two European phospholipid suppliers - Norway-based Aker BioMarine and Israeli company, Enzymotec. Opposition ​ In European patent law it typically takes 5-7 years for opposed patents to be adjudicated upon - at which point the patent will stand as it is, be amended or revoked. "The patent continues to preclude the competition from commercialising products as krill oil containing marine phospholipids in these European countries, providing only the patent holder with the benefit of exclusive commercialisation,"​ Neptune said. The patent - 'Natural Marine Source Phospholipids comprising flavonoïds, polyunsaturated fatty acids and their applications' - protects Neptune marine phospholipid and flavonoid compositions "as a medicament for the prevention and treatment of multiple chronic health conditions, including coronary artery disease caused by hypercholesterolemia, peripheral vascular disease, neurodegenerative and other cognitive disorders."​ Aker Biomarine and Enzymotec both have krill oils on the European market but were unavailable for comment about how supply of their products would be affected by the patent's implementation. Patent actions ​Gary Moss, a patent lawyer at Taylor Wessing in London, told many patents get opposed and said it would be up to Neptune to "assert the patent"​ if it so chose. "It would then become a civil action,"​ he said. "Then it will be up to the courts to decide if any company is inappropriately using the compounds and chemical elements outlined in the 50-page ruling." ​In its statement, Neptune referenced Christian Cawthorn of UK/French firm, Ogilvy Renault, who said: "The importance of this patent is highlighted by the fact that this is the first composition patent granted to the company, allowing them to secure a growing market. Since in Europe opposed patents remain granted and enforceable in all validated countries, Neptune has created a major barrier to competitive market entry."​ The 24 countries in which the patent has been validated are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden and Turkey.​ Neptune is the world's leading krill oil supplier. It recently gained GRAS (generally regarded as safe) approval in the US for its Neptune Krill Oil (NKO), has applied for novel foods approval in the European Union as well as safe-for-use-in-foods status in Australia. It also has agreements with Nestlé and Yoplait it hopes will lead to the food giants incorporating the ingredient into food products, possibly this year. Krill are small shrimp that are commonly eaten as whale food.

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