Tate & Lyle battles on

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Tate & Lyle aims to fight on in its patent infringement case against rival sucralose suppliers, despite an unfavourable initial ruling from the...

Tate & Lyle aims to fight on in its patent infringement case against rival sucralose suppliers, despite an unfavourable initial ruling from the International Trade Commission (ITC).

The firm, which is the market leader in the supply of the high intensity sweetener, claims the sucralose manufacturing process used by Chinese rivals infringes its vast suite of patents. However, in a preliminary ruling ahead of a (binding) judgement in January 2009, a judge at the ITC in Washington DC did not agree.

While Tate & Lyle acknowledged that "the majority" of ITC preliminary judgements stood, there had been successful appeals in the past, it claimed. General counsel Robert Gibber said: "We would not have proceeded unless we believed we had adequate evidence to demonstrate our patents were being infringed. We intend to petition for an appeal of the decision by the full commission."

Niutang, one of the Chinese firms involved in the case, welcomed the decision and said it was now ramping up its sucralose capacity to meet rising demand. The ruling "decisively demonstrated" that the process Niutang had developed to manufacture sucralose "does not violate any of the three patents in question", said a spokeswoman.

The judgement is the latest in a series of blows for Tate & Lyle, which recently admitted it had run into problems commissioning equipment at a wet corn mill in the US and was parting company with its finance director.

However, sales volume growth in sucralose remained "strong and consistent with our longer-term capacity utilisation target" despite a downturn in the number of new product launches, insisted the firm.