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Lab-Grown Meat Can Borrow Patent Strategy From Biologics

Jan. 23, 2023, 9:00 AM

The cultivated meat industry of products like beef and seafood that are produced directly from animal cells is growing quickly. Such companies aim to create products that are identical on the cellular level to animal meat with identical taste, texture, and nutrition.

More cultivated meat companies are expected to start developing patent strategies, and some patents have been filed already.

The cultivated meat industry is young. Singapore granted the first regulatory approval in 2020, and the first commercial sale happened there in 2021. The FDA recently issued its first no-questions letter.

But with an estimated market size of around $250-500 billion in annual sales by 2050, competition is rapidly growing. There are already over 130 cultivated meat-related companies around the world.

Patents and Market Exclusivity

Against this backdrop, cultivated meat companies will look to gain a competitive edge with market exclusivity strategies that incorporate patents. Patents grant exclusive rights to use, make, sell, or offer for sale inventions for a defined period of time, and are crucial to market exclusivity strategies.

First, they provide a competitive advantage and barrier to entry. Second, they help establish credibility and leadership. Third, they facilitate collaboration and investments by clearly defining each company’s IP. Cultivated meat companies will likely implement patent strategies to capture these benefits.

Many cultivated meat companies have started seeking patents. Patents covering multiple aspects of, and surrounding, cultivated meat characterizes the landscape today.

Thus far, cultivated meat patents fall into categories of consumer-facing products; cell and tissue organization; individual cultivation components; cultivation methods, techniques, or procedures; and production materials, instruments, equipment, and systems.

Using Biologic Patent Strategies

Cultivated meat companies should develop patent and communication strategies that balance their business goals, with a focus on market opportunities, technological developments, legal risks, and competition.

Some companies aiming to manufacture and supply cultivated meat products directly to consumers may adopt strategies leveraging different types of potential patents to maximize patent scope and coverage, similar to how a drug company may protect a biologic.

Biologics are therapeutic complex molecules produced directly from organisms. Their patent strategies are well-poised for adoption by cultivated meat companies.

Both involve similar complex biological processes and products. A characteristic of their patents are claims covering multiple aspects of the essential technology and its surrounding innovations. Therefore, biologic patent strategies may forecast cultivated meat patent strategies.

Some pharmaceutical companies have robust and diverse portfolios covering many different but complementary aspects of a biologic product and surrounding innovations. Under this strategy, biologics companies may pursue a combination of the following patents:

  • Product patents covering the specific molecule and its characteristics
  • Platform patents covering general methods and systems for producing biologics
  • Process patents covering the specific steps and conditions for producing biologics, which includes upstream and downstream processes
  • Analytics patents covering the methods for validating biologics’ attributes
  • Use patents covering specific indications and applications of biologics

A robust patent portfolio covering different but complementary aspects of cultivated meat may also suit cultivated meat technology. Companies in that space may adopt this strategy because it effectively provides multiple layers of protection and deterrence, while also increasing bargaining power and flexibility in licensing and cross-licensing deals.

The cultivated meat industry is promising and disruptive. Emerging competition, however, requires patent strategies that align with each company’s goals, resources, and circumstances to gain a competitive edge. Cultivated meat patents can cover many innovations in and surrounding each product.

Given many similarities with biologics, cultivated meat companies will likely adopt certain biologics patent strategies to protect their cultivated meat innovations.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

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Author Information

Dov Hirsch is an associate at Allen & Overy representing clients in intellectual property matters with a focus on patent and trade secret disputes.

Nicholas Mitrokostas, a partner in Allen & Overy’s intellectual property practice, is an experienced life sciences trial attorney who focuses on representing innovator companies in intellectual property, trade secret, licensing and antitrust disputes.