Trademarked Ingredients in Supplement Formulations

by Christine Hronec

The ever evolving dietary supplement industry boasts countless opportunities for new products every day.  A comprehensive review of the major product categories breaks down into four major groups:

  1. Sports Nutrition & Workout Support
  2. Diet & Weight Management
  3. Protein, and lastly
  4. Vitamins, Herbs & Health

These four major categories consist of numerous subcategories including everything from pre-workouts, post-workouts, fat burners, meal replacers, weight gainers, and multivitamins to name a few.  Since dietary supplements do not require pre-market approval from the Food and Drug Administration prior to commercialization, the majority of products on the market are not typically patented.

The purpose of patenting a product is to protect the company who invested in the R&D to maintain a competitive edge in being the first to discover the benefit of a specific ingredient, formulation, and/or end use benefit by not allowing other companies to infringe upon their findings.  However, in the supplement industry, unless the product entering the market is a brand new category creator or the end result of break through R&D backed by clinical studies and years of safety data, the majority of formulations are never filed as intellectual property.  This landscape leaves room for a plethora of “me too” products to enter this highly competitive market.  Without having to re-create the wheel, supplement brands are utilizing alternative approaches to create credible products without a large investment R&D and associated patent filing fees.  One such approach involves creating a formulation around a trademarked ingredient.

A trademarked ingredient is licensed and protected by international patents and laws. This means that a trademarked ingredient cannot be replicated, redistributed or remade by anyone else other than the manufacturer. These ingredients have been specifically formulated with ample research behind them to ensure safety and effectiveness.  The benefits of trademarked ingredients are readily integrated into supplement formulations by paying a licensing fee to the original ingredient manufacturer.  This approach enables unknown brands to take advantage of the ingredient marketing and utilize the research and development already performed on the ingredient to add credibility to their end products.  Consumers are becoming more educated about their purchasing decisions and carefully consider supplement labels when making a purchase, this is especial true of supplements sold online where it is very easy to compare.  Not only does licensing a trademarked ingredient improve the perception of a beneficial product, some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in sports nutrition have been made available to the masses by companies offering their research to be licensed for use in supplement formulations.  While the supplement brand will be paying more in term of ingredient costs and licensing fees, you get what you pay for in the end so invest in the most credible ingredients available in the market to create the most functional products for your clientele.

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