Leaders and Trends in Intellectual Property: Joint Health Products

By: Andreas Baltatzis & Gideon Eckhouse  |   February 10, 2017

Successful health and nutrition companies are built on innovative products and great brands. The strongest foundation for new products and brands is intellectual property, specifically patents and trademarks. Patents protect inventions and trademarks protect brands. Below, we discuss trends in intellectual property and highlight companies who are leading the creation of new products and brands in joint health.

Joint health products assist people of all ages from young athletes to aging consumers seeking an active and pain-free lifestyle. Likewise, joint health is important for pets and other companion animals. There is a continued need for innovative products in joint health support that do not include conventional treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which are known to have gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects.  Consumers are also looking for ingredients that they trust and are willing to pay a premium price for branded ingredients.  A number of natural product companies have capitalized on the need for innovative products that consumers can trust by protecting these products with intellectual property.

New Brands: Trademark Applications In Joint Health

Trademarks provide protection of brand names and logos for companies and individuals who sell a product. Every trademark application and registration must list the goods and services with which the mark is used. This ensures that the scope of the trademark rights is limited to the products and services with which the brand is actually marketed.

We reviewed trademark filings and registrations from over the last five years. The data below show how many trademark applications were filed, and how many trademarks were successfully registered each year for joint health products and services. These marks include supplements, veterinary products, and other products and services related to joint health. We also reviewed the owners of the marks and found that 73 different entities filed applications or were granted registrations during this time period. 17 companies own two or more applications or registrations related to joint health products and services. Those with more than two include: animonda petcare gmbh (4), Chr. Hansen A/S (3), FKC International, Inc. (3), Health Enhancement Products, Inc. (4), InQpharm Europe Limited (3), Nano-Go LLC (3), and Orig3n, Inc. (8).

New Products: Patent Applications Related To Joint Health

Joint health inventions generally relate to improving or maintaining the function of joint tissue or reducing inflammation degrades joint tissue. Likewise, the proper function of the joints requires the interaction of a number of different types of tissue, such as bone, cartilage, connective tissue, and synovial tissue. All of these tissues and the system as a whole are prime targets for supplementation and support. 

We identified over 250 original patent applications published over the past 20 years which are directed to joint health support, including improving flexibility and reducing pain, arthritis, inflammation, and autoimmune disease. These do not include continuation and divisional patent applications, which can lead to several granted patents from one original application. The 20-year span is the term of a patent, which expires 20 years from the filing of the first application. Also, the results do not include filings from 2015 and 2016, as patent applications are published 18 months from the filing of the first application, thereby excluding the most recently filed applications.

Natural product-based inventions can be broadly categorized as formulations, extracts, methods of use, and dosage forms. Formulations are the most common type of invention relating to the new non-natural combinations of naturally-based components. Other inventions relate to new extracts or new methods for extracting active components that are different from the natural source. Many inventions relate to identifying new methods of use for previously known compounds. Finally, a number of inventions are directed to new dosage forms or delivery vehicles. The following chart indicates the distribution of inventions targeted by the patent applications, with the majority being formulations, followed by new methods of use, novel extracts and extractions, and finally new delivery vehicles and dosage forms.

Patent Filing Trends

The number of joint health patent applications filed per year has been relatively consistent over the past ten years, usually between 10-20 applications filed per year. The peak number of filings was in 2005 followed by a lull corresponding to the downturn of 2008-2010. A recent drop in filings may be related to the USPTO’s implementation of more stringent requirements for patenting inventions derived from naturally-based sources. While the new requirements make it more difficult to obtain a patent, a proactive approach can still provide a successful outcome in patenting innovative natural products. It will be exciting to see what new ingredients and new mechanisms of actions will drive the next wave of innovation in natural joint health support.

The Leaders: Patent Applications

In the United States, patent applications are owned by the inventors listed on the application, absent an assignment to a corporate entity. Many inventors assign these applications to their employers as required by employment contracts, or set up corporate entities which own the patent applications for business and liability purposes. The majority of the application owners identified in our search were assigned one or two applications. The following entities were assigned more than two patent applications associated with joint health.


 

There is an ongoing need for innovation and brand protection in joint health. Leading companies in joint health continue to build value in their innovations and brands by protecting their intellectual property through patent and trademark applications. Make sure that you consider these options for building barriers to competition and increasing the value of your brands and new products.  A good intellectual property attorney can advise you on whether or not pursing a patent or registered trademark is a good investment for your business and exactly where to start.