Codexis sues a rival over 'brazen' patent infringement

Codexis CEO John Nicols

Enzyme developer Codexis ($CDXS) is suing a Chinese competitor over what it claims was a "brazen" theft of its trade secrets, seeking to halt the company's operation and recover monetary damages.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that Junhua Tao pilfered Codexis' intellectual property related to enzyme development and founded a company of his own to siphon away clients.

According to Codexis, the Redwood City, CA, company first began working with Tao when he was an employee of Pfizer ($PFE), one of its biopharma partners. Tao later quit and founded his own firm, EnzymeWorks, in 2010. EnzymeWorks soon began crafting exact duplicates of Codexis' proprietary enzymes, the lawsuit states, marketing them to Codexis' partners at reduced prices.

Codexis is asking the court to stop EnzymeWorks' alleged infringement, petitioning for undisclosed monetary damages and the reimbursement of its legal fees.

"Codexis undertakes litigation rarely and reluctantly, but this form of blatant disrespect for intellectual property harms not only our business and ultimately our shareholders, but also our customers, who, like Codexis, rely on intellectual property rights to protect their businesses and products," CEO John Nicols said in a statement.

EnzymeWorks didn't respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but Tao told Chemical & Engineering News in an email that the allegations "are inaccurate and inappropriate."

Codexis, which went public in 2010, makes its money on a protein-engineering platform that allows it to develop enzymes used in the manufacture of drugs and other chemicals. Codexis' clients include many of the world's largest drugmakers, and the company has projected 2015 revenue to come in at between $41 million and $44 million.

According to its website, EnzymeWorks operates a manufacturing and R&D center near Shanghai and a U.S. base in San Diego.

- read the statement
- here's CEN's story