All of the “good players” in the dietary supplement industry greatly appreciate, respect, and value what Nutrition21 has accomplished. Not only do they make some of the highest quality, cutting-edge ingredients, such as Nitrosigine, nooLVL, Velositol, and Chromax, Nutrition21 actively conducts research and does everything in their power to bring more transparency to the global supply chain. Over the past few years, products using Nutrition21’s trademarked ingredients have grown tremendously in popularity – which just highlights the impact they’re having on the sports and health/wellness supplement market.
Although this may seem great, Nutrition21’s biggest challenge is ensuring that if the label says “Nitrosigine”, that it’s actually the real thing – not just a generic form or even worse, not in the product at all. We all would like to trust that the label on a supplement is an accurate representation of what’s inside the bottle, but unfortunately, several things can go wrong in the process of creating a finished product.
Intellectual Property Infringement: Nutrition21 vs Myth Labs
Every month it seems like there are countless new supplements and brands entering the market. And in order to compete with industry veterans, using trademarked ingredients is very enticing. However, these ingredients are not cheap by any means — the testing, research, and development that goes into their creation costs a lot of money and time. Just a few months ago, Myth Labs, a fairly new company, released a product called Myth Labs Pump and it featured Nutrition21’s Nitrosigine as one of the main ingredients.
Nitrosigine is fantastic in workout pump-based formulas – it’s extremely effective at boosting nitric oxide levels, resulting in more blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient delivery. However, we are not fans of seeing Nitrosigine on a label and then finding out that it’s not even in the product!
This is known as intellectual property (IP) infringement and it’s something that Nutrition21 and several other ingredient developers have to deal with on a daily basis. As soon as Nutrition21 found out about this – they immediately took action – but it took a little while to finally reach a settlement.
The entire news story is outlined below and if you want to stay up to date with everything that’s going on in the supplement industry, make sure to sign up for Nutrition21 news alerts!
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Contract Manufacturers, Brands, and Ingredient Suppliers
The majority of consumers are unaware of all the steps that go into manufacturing dietary supplements.
There are very few supplement companies that actually make their own products and own a manufacturing facility, the most well-known one in the industry is none other than NutraBio. Nearly every other brand works with a contract manufacturer and relies on them to handle the “heavy lifting” of sourcing ingredients, flavoring, formulating, and bottling their products.
Nutrition21 is a leader in ingredient development — they do not make supplements, but they do sell trademarked ingredients to contract manufacturers so that other brands can utilize them. It’s both the brand and contract manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure that the product actually contains what it says on the label – from ingredients to dosages and everything else in between. But what happens when something goes wrong and the label is incorrect or the ingredients are adulterated – who’s responsible?
The MythLabs Settlement
As we mentioned in the intro, Nutrition21 wants to ensure that their trademarked ingredients remain unadulterated throughout the entire supply chain and that companies are not putting their name on a label that doesn’t contain the ingredient. MythLabs is just one example of Nutrition21 taking action to stop intellectual property infringement.
When Nutrition21 discovered the MythLabs Pump did not contain Nitrosigine, they filed a dispute and in this case it was on the brand to be held responsible for this act. MythLabs agreed to stop any future intellectual property violations of Nitrosigine from Nutrition21.
“These products cheat the consumers who have purchased them and compete unfairly with brands that produce products that contain the ingredients that are listed on their labels. Nutrition21 has a robust portfolio of patents, trademarks, and copyrights across the globe, and we have a successful track record of enforcing and protecting our IP.”
-Sara O’Brien, General Counsel, Nutrition21
You may be wondering how MythLabs got away with this in the first place. All they had to do was claim that Nitrosigine was in the product, however it was obvious that it wasn’t after some investigation by Nutrition21 because MythLabs never filled out a purchase and trademark license agreement. When MythLabs Pump was released, Nutrition21 got notified that Nitrosigine was on the label. Nutrition21 tested the product and quickly found out that it did not contain any Nitrosigine.
MythLabs is now required to remove all misleading products from retail, destroy or dispose of any MythLabs Pump inventory, and are not allowed to sell any supplement that uses Nitrosigine without a license agreement. As you can see, this is going to be a huge financial burden on the brand, because who knows how many units got manufactured that now cannot be sold.
Furthermore, this news spreads fast in the industry and multiple consumers and retailers aren’t going to trust that MythLabs has accurate labels or formulas. This is a quick way to shut down a brand in the industry, but it’s something that has to be done in order to ensure that products are safe, efficacious, and high quality.
Watch the following video on PricePlow’s Instagram channel for more info before we move on to Nutrition21’s plans to address this in the future:
Fortunately, Nutrition21 has taken a huge step forward to make sure their intellectual property is not being infringed upon – which leads us to CertainT.
Nutrition21 and The CertainT Program
Early into 2020, Nutrition21 announced that they were partnering with Applied DNA Sciences (ADNAS) to adopt the CertainT program for their trademarked ingredients. CertainT is a state-of-the-art technology designed to protect brands, manufacturers, ingredient supplies, and consumers.
CertainT consists of three pillars: tagging, testing, and tracking.
First the trademarked ingredients will be tagged with unique identifiers known as SigNature molecular tags, which have been tested rigorously to ensure that they’re unaffected by any extreme environmental condition (heat, cold, UV radiation). Furthermore, a single tag can be identified multiple times throughout the course of the product’s existence.
The testing pillar consists of a patented authentication system, known as SigNify , that allows the SigNature molecular tags to be verified and detected. The test results include a document that can be used as evidence in court called the Certificate of DNA analysis (CODA).
The last pillar is tracking, which is arguably one of the most crucial steps because once the ingredient is tagged, it can be tested and tracked as it travels throughout the global supply chain. The data points get uploaded to the CertainT portal, allowing you to accurately track the ingredient.
Together, these three pillars can significantly improve the traceability and authenticity of a product and/or ingredient, and we’re witnessing that first hand with this case settlement.
“We are doing our part in bringing efficacious products to the market, as well as leaving no stone unturned when it comes to getting fraudulent products removed that infringe on our IP. I suggest that any ingredient supplier with patented products take a look at the CertainT program that we have launched this year.”
– Joe Weiss, President of Nutrition21
CertainT and Nitrosigine
Nutriton21’s Nitrosigine – a complex of inositol-stabilized arginine silicate – is the first ingredient that adopted CertainT. It’s one of the most popular ingredients in the pre workout category because of how powerful it is at boosting nitric oxide levels, resulting in greater blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen to the working muscles.One study even showed that 1.5g of Nitrosigine was as effective at enhancing nitric oxide levels as 8g of citrulline malate. Therefore, it makes sense to have Nitrosigine be one of the early adopters of CertainT.Nutrition21’s goal is to have every trademarked ingredient that they make covered under the CertainT program, but in this case it came in very handy since MythLabs was falsely claiming that Nitrosigine was in their product. CertainT allowed for Nutrition21 to quickly identify that the label was inaccurate and take legal action immediately.It’s important to note that Nutriton21 works very closely with licensed contract manufacturers (CM) and they sell their ingredients directly to the CM to be put into end products as requested by the brand owners. CertainT adds another step of verification because after the finished product gets distrubed, it can be purchased from a retailer and checked for label claims.Although the contract manufacturer is supposed to test the product and verify the label, you never know if something could go wrong. Fortunately, CertainT is here to ensure the labels are accurate and that the ingredients remain pure and safe. Finally, the CertainT technology can also be used to verify the dosage is correct, which is another important factor – especially in the sports supplement industry.
If you want to learn more about CertainT, see our article titled Nutrition21 CertainT: Be Definite About Your Dietary Supplement Ingredients.
Protect Your Intellectual Property With CertainT
Before Nutrition21 started to utilize CertainT in the dietary supplement market, several other major industries were already using it – it can be put into nearly any material. With a global supply chain and too many manufacturers to know, keeping track of a brand’s intellectual property is critically important.
Nutrition21 is utilizing CertainT to protect and oversee their own ingredients, and they’re also offering it to other branded ingredient companies as well! Nutrition21’s objective is to make the global supply chain as transparent as possible, and they’re doing a great job, but it would be better if other companies also got on board. While we may see a few more infringments occur in existing supplements, with word out on CertainT, the adulteration of Nutrition21-based ingredients will likely come to an end.
With this success, CertainT will reduce non-compliance and bring more legitimacy to dietary supplements. Despite the misconception that the supplement industry is not regulated, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t bad apples out there that are not following appropriate rules and regulations. Slowly, but surely, those brands will get left behind from quality ingredients like Nitrosigine and the supplement industry will move forward.
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