Saisie contrefaçon

Salveco and Dhenne Avocats fight competitors over ecological detergent patents

Salveco has recently signed strategic partnership agreements with HG and Altair for the use of its biodegradable cleaning product technology. But a patent battle is raging between Salveco and its various competitors, including Henkel subsidiary Swania, over the same technology.

12 May 2022 by Konstanze Richter

Salveco is fighting various competitors in France over alleged infringement of two patents for ecological detergent, which has led to the company performing a saisie contrefaçon to obtain evidence ©Suteren Studio/ADOBE STOCK

French cleaning product manufacturer Salveco specialises in plant-based chemistry for hygiene and home care products. It holds two patents EP 2 677 867 B1 and FR 2 971 913, which both protect a biodegradable biocidal product based on lactic acid.

Recently, Salveco entered into three strategic partnerships with its competitors Group Altair (France), HG (Netherlands) and Diversey (US), allowing use of its patented technology. Last week, for example, HG signed a partnership agreement with Salveco. But a fierce courtroom battle is simultaneously raging on.

Salveco is accusing various cleaning product manufacturers and distributors of infringing its two patents. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant sales of hygiene products have risen sharply, making it a very hard-fought market.

Salveco strikes the competition

Over several seizures (saisie contrefaçon) during summer 2021, Salveco secured evidence against numerous French manufacturers and suppliers of ecological biodegradable disinfectant products. Among these were Hygiène & Nature and Hydrachim, as well as the French distributor Swania. However, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel has since acquired the latter.

The seizure also impacted Anses (Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail), which is responsible for food safety, environmental protection and occupational safety. Anses issues marketing authorisations for biocides. During the seizure, Salveco secured documents for the approval of competitor products.

Matthieu Dhenne

Trade secret protection

The manufacturers Swania, Hydrachim and Hygiène & Nature responded with lawsuits before the Paris Judicial Court. They called for the revocation of the seizure and destruction of the seized documents – both from the seizure at their own premises, as well as the seizure at Anses.

The companies also demanded that Salveco not be allowed to use the documents in proceedings in France or abroad. According to claimants, Salveco took a disproportionate number of documents containing trade secrets during the seizure.

Then, in February 2022, the 3rd Chamber of the Judicial Court of Paris rejected the motion to revoke the seizure actions (case IDs: 21/09404, 21/09375, 21/09297 and 21/08692). According to the court, the seizures complied with Directive 2004/48/CE. This states that authorities can take measures to secure evidence, if there is justified suspicion of patent infringement.

However, the court differentiated between different types of information, with information of a financial nature not falling under trade secrets. A confidentiality club will be formed for documents revealing certain formulas, including those seized from Anses.

Appeals against this decision are pending. According to JUVE Patent information, there were no lawsuits against Group Altair, HG and Diversey.

French market shines

Matthieu Dhenne conducts all litigation for Salveco, following a recommendation to the client a few years ago. He works at his own law firm under his own name. In addition Dhenne joined the patent attorney firm Ipsilon as its first litigator at the end of 2020.

Swania hired a team led by renowned August & Debouzy partner François Pochart. Hydrachim and Hygiène & Nature relied on French full-service firms Avoxa and Realex, which is still less visible in the French patent market.

For Salveco
Dhenne Avocats (Paris): Matthieu Dhenne, Benjamin Mollet-Viéville

For Swania/Henkel
August & Debouzy (Paris): François Pochart (public knowledge)

For Hydrachim
Avoxa (Rhennes): Héloïse Bajer Pellet, Bertrand Ermeneux (public knowledge)

For Hygiène & Nature
Realex (Paris): Brad Spitz (public knowledge)

Tribunal judiciaire, Paris, 3rd Chamber
Nathalie Sabotier (presiding judge)