August 2, 2008
Ajinomoto loses patent dispute in US against Global Bio-Chem
Ajinomoto Co., Japan's biggest maker of food and food additives, lost a US trade ruling in which it sought to block imports of feed additives made by China's Global Bio-Chem Technology Group Co.
Administrative Law Judge Charles Bulloc with the US International Trade Commission in Washington ruled that two Ajinomoto patents were seeking to protect are invalid and unenforceable.
The case is part of a patent fight between the two companies over L-lysine production.
Ajinomoto filed the complaint in 2006 to prevent Hong Kong-based Global Bio-Chem from exporting its lysine into the US. The company also filed suits in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Belgium.
The district court in the Netherlands sided with Ajinomoto and ordered Global Bio-Chem to pay damages and stop using the technology. That case is on appeal.
The patents relate to the method to obtain genetically modified bacteria so that it can produce lysine.
The US judge found that Ajinomoto had not followed federal law requiring that patent owners explain the best way to recreate the invention.
The judge also said Ajinomoto misled the US Patent and Trademark Office to obtain the patents and therefore should not be allowed to enforce its patents against others.
The decision is still subject to review by the full commission. Ajinomoto can appeal to the six-member commission to overturn the decision. If that fails, the company can still appeal to a US court in Washington that specializes in patent law.
In the original ITC complaint in 2006, Ajinomoto said it had about 28 percent of the global market for L-lysine.