It's Sunday afternoon and I feel like my feet have not hit the ground since Friday! Speaking of which, Friday was an interesting day.
As a supplement formulator, I have noted the rise and rise of the proprietary blend (usually marked with an ® or TM on supplement labels). It's not something I've thought about much, as I don't generally use them when formulating, but on Friday I had a fascinating run in with a supplier over just such a thing.
Let me give you a hypothetical example of how it went down. I don't want to mention the actual ingredients as the company involved seems aggressive, and there is also an issue of client confidentiality on my end.
So.. let's say that I've been researching scientific journals and identified a few natural things that seem to have efficacy in treating a modern condition, say Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I figure out that slippery elm powder, citrus pectin, vitamin e and grapeseed extract would be good for IBS (remember, this is a pretend situation. I'm not recommending these things for IBS).
I start searching for suppliers of the ingredients and come across a blend called IBsyn® made by WKRS Company. The product contains slippery elm and citrus pectin in unspecified quantities and has been well tested on IBS sufferers. I think this might be a more cost effective way to get two of the ingredients I want and contact the Australasian distributor. He sends me a bunch of information and an eye-watering price - approximately five times what buying the ingredients separately would cost.I decline the offer, indicating that, as awesome as their blend seem to be, I've worked with these ingredients before and can get them at a much better price. At that point the distributor starts getting legal on me:
"Sara, I must warn you that WKRS Co. has a patent on the use of slippery elm and citrus pectin together in an IBS formulation and is known for legal enforcement of their patent"
Me: "Ok, well thanks for the warning, but I don't know the amounts of slippery elm and citrus pectin in IBsyn®, and I don't intend to plagiarise it"
What do you think?
Unacceptable corporate greed, or nothing much to get in a fizz about?