Increased innovation puts Danisco in patent top 10
recognised as being one of the strongest patentees compared with
other companies in the food sector.
The ingredients company came ninth on the Patent Board Scorecard for food, beverage and tobacco sector for companies trading worldwide that have been granted the most patents over the last quarter. This is up one place from the previous quarter, when Danisco entered the list at number 10. Innovation at Danisco Hans Elbek Pedersen,vice president for food innovation at Danisco, told FoodNavigator.com: "We are very much a technology and knowledge based company and we want to capitalise on this investment through a very active patenting policy, which has changed a lot in the past 10 years." The company prides itself on being able to identify trends in finished food and beverage products ahead of the game, so it can work on ways to help its customers work on appropriate products. For example, it said that every month it comes up with a new ice cream concept that it believes fits with consumer demands. One of its recent patents in March was its investment in pilot low temperature extrusion technology to produce high-quality, low-fat ice-cream, to enable testing of ingredients using the same systems as its customers use. Danisco said that one in 10 employees at Danisco are dedicated to innovation. In full year 2006/7 it ploughed DKK 874m into research and development - over 12 per cent of gross profit. Importance of patenting Food companies apply for patents to protect their products and innovative technology from being copied by competitors in the industry. "With a 20 year monopoly this will stand food companies in good stead," said Isabel Davies, senior partner of intellectual property at CMS Cameron McKenna. "But, on the other hand, if patents are not applied for and the new ideas kept confidential, the protection lasts for ever - subject to disclosure." However, keeping certain information proprietary is dangerous as it relies on contractual obligations to uphold the confidentiality of the information, explained Clare Frith, a food lawyer at Eversheds. "Even keeping the information secret doesn't mean it will be protected," she said. Patenting tends to be the chosen protection method for major companies, and so the patent list is a good way to gain knowledge on various R&D activities. Frith said: "By rule of thumb, it is usually the larger companies that are more able to apply for patents because they are the ones who can afford it. Not only is application for the patent expensive, but it is only worth doing if you can afford to enforce it." Patenting at Danisco The scorecard is an interesting indication on developments within the industry, giving an insight into the activities of various major companies. Leif Kjaergaard, CTO of Danisco, said: "It shows that we allocate a lot of resources to technology, innovation and patenting," said. "This is an important signal to send to our customers and investors." Other major food companies that made it into the top ten on the Patent Board Scorecard were Ajinomoto (second), Kraft Foods (third), Pepsico (sixth), Nestle (seventh) and Cargill (tenth).