By Adam Lidgett

The Federal Circuit on Tuesday backed a lower court’s invalidation of a pair of PureCircle USA Inc.’s patents on non-caloric food sweeteners, finding that most of the claims at issue weren’t described well enough under patent law.

In a nonprecedential decision, a three-judge panel of the circuit court affirmed a California federal court decision in favor of SweeGen Inc., which competes with PureCircle.

The appellate court said it agreed with the reasoning of the federal judge that a majority of the claims at issue were invalid because they lacked an adequate written description.

The other claim at issue was invalid for covering a natural phenomenon or abstract idea, which isn’t allowed under Section 101 of the Patent Act, according to the circuit court decision.

PureCircle’s patents for using enzymes to produce chemical compounds called steviol glycosides were challenged by competitor SweeGen Inc. after PureCircle alleged patent infringement in California district court.

Both companies manufacture next-generation sweeteners to reduce sugar content in foods and beverages.

“Throughout this litigation, we consistently asserted the invalidity of PureCircle’s patents, considering their case against SweeGen as baseless and spurious,” Steven Chen, CEO of SweeGen, said in a statement to Law360. “This triumph in the U.S. Court of Appeals serves to highlight SweeGen’s dedication to principled innovation and fair competition within the industry.”

Counsel for PureCircle said the company was unhappy with the circuit court decision.

“We are reviewing the opinion in detail while we consider potential next steps,” Stuart E. Pollack, an attorney for PureCircle, said in a statement. “In several ways this decision and that of the district court show there is strength and value in this patent portfolio.”

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 10,485,257 and 9,243,273.

U.S. Circuit Judges Timothy B. Dyk, Alvin A. Schall and Leonard P. Stark sat on the panel for the Federal Circuit.

PureCircle is represented by Stanley J. Panikowski and Richard T. Mulloy of DLA Piper, and Stuart E. Pollack of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP.

SweeGen is represented by John Christopher Rozendaal, Dennies Varughese, Deirdre M. Wells, Michael E. Joffre, Anna G. Phillips and Sasha S. Rao of Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox PLLC.

The case is PureCircle USA Inc. v. SweeGen Inc., case number 22-1946, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

–Additional reporting by Ryan Lynch. Editing by Rich Mills.

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