A patent filed in New Zealand 20 years ago by the founders of The a2 Milk Company to protect their milk testing method expired yesterday, but the growing company says it's business as usual.
Sales of the company's dairy products have risen strongly in recent years among Australian consumers seeking easier-to-digest proteins, and the company is now exporting to the UK, China and the US.
The a2 Milk Company filed the expired patent on 3 Nov 1995 with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand for the “method of selecting non-diabetogenic milk or milk products and milk or milk products so selected”.
This patent is co-owned with Fonterra and concerns the testing of milk to exclude A1 beta-casein to lower the risk of diabetes, the company's chief marketing officer Susan Massasso told Food & Drink Business.
She says, however, that the company has secured a number of patents and trademarks that protect it from those that may want to mimic its unique process.
“The strength of The a2 Milk Company’s intellectual property comes from the inter-relationship between a number of its patents, rather than any individual patent, and the inter-relationship between the company’s patents and other forms of IP, especially protected brand marks," Massasso said.
“Currently the comprehensive patent portfolio consists of 13 families of patents, which are registered or under application globally.
"The company’s most recently established patent rights will not expire until 2036.
“This IP position means that no one else can have complete freedom to operate in the manufacturing, selling and advertising of an A1 beta-casein free proposition in its entirety like we can.”
Massasso said the recently expired patent will continue to be in place in the US until 2017.