With the withdrawal of a patent on a coco coir processing method, an end has come to an ongoing dispute in the coir industry. UK company Botanicoir has chosen to withdraw its UK patent for coir substrate processing method for the production of coir chip particles after a challenge by Cocogreen UK Ltd, another UK coco producer. Both producers are happy to put an end to this case.

UK patent
Botanicoir was awarded a patent in the UK in 2017. The patent, GB2543968, claimed a method of producing coir substrate comprising coir particles of particular sizes. At the end of 2019, the company has withdrawn its UK patent following a challenge by Cocogreen at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

In September 2018, Cocogreen challenged the patent at the UKIPO on the basis that the method was already used in the industry and had been made available to the public before the patent had been filed, citing its own marketing material as evidence that Cocogreen had manufactured products using the claimed method in products for berries since 2010. Whilst Cocogreen’s challenge was ongoing, Botanicoir opted to withdraw its patent meaning that the UKIPO did not have to rule on its validity.

“For us, focussing on our customers is of highest importance. An ongoing legal case provides a distraction and costs time and money that we would rather spend on serving our customers and developing our products further”, Kalum Balasuriya of Botanicoir explains.

“We applied for this patent with the hope of protecting a method we developed in-house after years of research and extensive commercial trials in 2014-15. Our Precision Plus Ultra substrate mix includes a special blend of coir chips, fibre and pith which provides growers with exceptional results. It was never our intention to prevent other coir companies from producing products including coir chip particles, as they have been incorporated in coir substrates for many decades. Withdrawal of the patent hopefully gives other players in the industry the possibility to focus on innovation and new techniques, which all helps the grower in the end.”

Patent Challenge
Thomas Ogden, co-founder and Group Commercial Director, “At Cocogreen, honesty and integrity are at the core of our business and we have worked extremely hard over the past decade to become the industry’s partner by being the first to gain independent accreditation for quality, welfare (SA8000) and environmental practices right across our vertical integrated supply chain. We had evidenced our use of mixing coir pith, chips and fibres of various fractions as far back as 2010 during this patent challenge, evidenced in marketing materials.  Our R&D department and in-field consultants had been developing such products over many years. Our efforts have helped to improve standards across all aspects of the coir industry from production, product and the grower experience, which is beneficial to the wider substrate industry and grower alike.”

“This background was the reason we felt we had no option but to challenge the validity of the patent; and with the withdrawal of the patent we are ensuring that no claims can be made for ingenuity for practices that already existed in future.”

“As Cocogreen we have, and continue to research and develop further advancement of technology within coir substrates; moving ahead from solely physical or mechanical processes and techniques  –  Our Moisture Control TechnologyTM & SafeguardTM technologies are testament to our growth in innovation since 2010. This was acknowledged when we were Granted – The Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2018 by HRH, Queen Elizabeth II.- The most prestigious business Award in the UK.”

Dr. Sudesh Fernando, co-founder and Group Managing Director added that Botanicoir’s decision to surrender the patent following the challenge safeguards these highly-regarded standards and universal procedures. “Not just for our own business, but for the wider industry – protecting other companies and the welfare of their employees.”

He added: “Due to our in-depth and technical knowledge of the sector, and with the support of our in-house R&D and Technical expertise we were able to work alongside the legal professionals to help them to understand the niche coir substrates market. We hope our readiness to challenge this patent shows Cocogreen’s support of the substrate industry as a whole, which is testament to the social welfare standards that we have encouraged within coir substrate manufacturing and business ethics.”

18th March 2020

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