Maksim Kabakou /
24 February 2016Americas

Codexis accuses EnzymeWorks of trade secrets theft

Pharmaceutical company Codexis has sued a rival and its founder for allegedly stealing trade secrets and infringing up to ten patents.

California-based Codexis, an enzyme engineering production company, sued both EnzymeWorks and its founder Junhua Tao in a lawsuit filed at the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Tao founded EnzymeWorks in 2010 after spending eight years at a “leading global pharmaceutical company”, according to the complaint.

The company has not been named.

According to the lawsuit, Tao is accused of copying Codexis’ enzyme sequences which were then sold as copycat products.

The complaint, filed on February 19, said that while Tao was working for the unnamed pharma company he entered into a collaborative research agreement with Codexis in 2004.

The partnership, which focused on the development of proprietary enzymes for use in manufacturing, gave Tao access to important technical information which was under strict confidentiality restrictions, the complaint said.

But Codexis claimed that Tao accessed its IP while working on the collaboration and later used it to start his own company.

In its complaint, Codexis said Tao betrayed the trust placed on him and built “EnzymeWorks upon an infected foundation of trade secret theft and other business torts, the brazen copying of Codexis’s engineered enzymes, and the widespread and sweeping wilful infringement of numerous Codexis patents.”

In 2004, Tao interviewed for a position at Codexis, but was not hired, the complaint said.

He remained at the pharmaceutical company until he founded EnzymeWorks in 2010.

The suit adds that Tao and his company set out a “deliberate plan to copy Codexis’ enzymes” and to “misappropriate trade secrets as a shortcut to entering a new market.

Codexis also claims in the suit that EnzymeWorks infringed “at least” ten of the firm’s patents on biocatalysis technology.

Codexis is demanding enhanced damages, attorney's fees, and supplemental damages.

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