Roquette holds about 50 patents relating to the manufacture of its maltitol sweetener, and the patent at the center of this case protects new forms of maltitol crystals, for example bipyramidal maltitol forms, which are designed to maximize performance in the production of chocolate and chewing gum.
The company has been producing its maltitol product, which it markets as Maltisorb, for more than 20 years and, under its US patent number 6,344,591, it has a patent term extending to September 2018. Roquette won a patent case against Yucheng Lujian Biological Co. in January 2008, preventing the Chinese company from importing or selling maltitol crystals in the USA under its local patent.
Roquette’s IP director Bruno Quenon told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the company filed the present lawsuit to enforce the court’s earlier decision, to clarify that the prohibition on maltitol imports and sales from Yucheng Lujian also applies to associated companies.
“It is not a question of quantity,” he said. “Roquette has always grown due to product innovation. We hold many significant patents on polyols technologies and are determined to protect our intellectual property rights.”
This latest decision adds extra protection to Roquette, by directing the US Customs and Border Protection agency to deny entry into the United States to any dry form of maltitol from Yucheng Lujian Biological Co. or its associated companies.
Roquette said in a statement: “Subsequent to the issuance of the Court's order, Yucheng Lujian entered into a further agreement on behalf of itself and its sister companies, including Shandong Maltitol Biological Technology Co., Ltd., prohibiting Yucheng Lujian and its sister companies from selling, offering to sell, or importing into the United States any powdered maltitol.”
No one from Yucheng Lujian was available for comment prior to publication of this article.
Maltitol is attractive to food manufacturers for a number of reasons, including its non-cariogenic property due to its resistance to being broken down by oral bacteria, low energy, and being less prone to crystallization.
Maltitol is used to obtain low viscosity with minimal fat absorption in products such as chocolate, and to retain flexible textures in products such as chewing gum.
According to figures from Mintel’s Global New Products Database, 881 food products containing maltitol were launched globally in 2009, up 32 percent on the 668 launched in 2006.