IP protection for green chemistry

If you’re active in the consumer and industrial products supply chain, you’re incentivised to develop greener, more sustainable products and processes. Patent protection is fundamental to protecting your innovation efforts, driving product development and enhancing the value of your company — inspiring environmental awareness and better living.

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“Martin Neilson has proven himself reliable and effective in helping us identify and protect our intellectual property. His advice is insightful, clear and focussed on client priorities.”

Sheffield Hallam University

We protect your innovation with leading IP strategies

We understand the interdisciplinary nature of green chemistry and our diverse team of IP attorneys can help you to protect the innovative research and development of alternative green and sustainable technologies. Our expertise includes chemical synthesis (organic, inorganic, catalysis systems and processes), recyclable and compostable materials, renewable energy (including fuel cells, photovoltaics, energy storage and proportion systems), food production, packaging, clothing/textiles and waste management.

Our knowledge of the technologies associated with life cycle sustainability enable us to aid your decision-making process and work with you to develop a bespoke IP strategy.

Learn more about our specialisms and read our FAQs below.

Specialisms and FAQs

Our specialisms

Food and drink

We’re an integral partner to innovators in the food and drink sector who create sustainable, green chemical alternatives to pollutants such as methylene chloride in beverage hop extraction and carbon dioxide and other highly-potent greenhouse gases used as super-critical fluids for oil extraction from sesame seeds, decaffeinating coffee and as a liquid solvent generally.

We can help you to secure patent protection for your innovations, working together to make our planet a better, safer place.


Considerable innovation is focussed on addressing the problem of single-use plastics for consumer products, including managing processes and materials from raw to waste material production. By building patent portfolios which facilitate a circular economy through the creation of materials that may be recycled, regenerated and/or have biodegradable properties, you can be at the forefront of sustainable packaging.

We have decades of experience in the polymer and plastics industry. Partnering with us can help you to achieve your sustainable goals and ensure company growth.


Consumers, other industries in the supply-chain and regulatory pressures are driving innovation in the cosmetics sector. While manufacturers have returned to more traditional, plant-derived ingredients such as palm and coconut oil, the environmental impact of indigenous deforestation of vast palm forests has destroyed biodiversity.

We partner with the companies and universities which aim for a more sustainable approach. This may include creating materials for cosmetics from agricultural waste — for instance, enzymes which are developed for use as emollients and emulsifiers to create formulations that avoid environmentally-damaging processes.

Our trusted guidance can help you to maximise your R&D efforts, generate further revenue and ultimately develop more sustainable cosmetics.

Clothing and textiles

More than a third of all micro-plastics released into our oceans originate from synthetic textiles used in the fashion industry. Each time an item is washed, hundreds of thousands of microscopic fibres are released. Innovation in chemical engineering is working to reduce fashion waste and eliminate the significant environmental impact of the fast-fashion industry.

We’re well-placed to assist high-performance textile and apparel manufacturers to create environmentally-friendly products which combine green innovation with cutting-edge materials and designs. Through IP rights, you can develop high-value patent portfolios and maintain market-leading positions.

Construction, house and home

Architectural products including paints, anti-corrosion coatings, fireproof coatings and composite boards are all manufactured using chemical and chemical engineering technologies and pathways. We partner with companies to drive green innovation away from environmentally-damaging (often toxic and corrosive) materials and processes to create more sustainable technologies that meet consumer and industry demands, as well as satisfying ever-increasing environmentally-driven regulations.

We can advise on all aspects of IP and help you to build patent portfolios which protect your R&D into green products and processes, including environmentally-friendly concretes, reducing the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and new green paints and coatings.

In the home, we can aid your innovation around green furnishings, household products and consumables, including environmentally-friendly carpets, furniture, cleaning and sanitary products, as well as fire-resistant materials, which represent a significant portion of the green construction sector.


We’ve developed a new recipe or formulation for an energy drink. Should we keep the recipe confidential or try to protect it with a patent?

The answer to this may depend, in part, on how easy it would be for your competitors to ‘reverse engineer’ the drink once you commercialise it. If it would be easy to determine the key ingredients (and possibly their concentrations), and hence have a rough idea of your recipe, you wouldn’t really be in a position to rely on maintaining confidentiality.

Also relevant is the ease with which it’s possible to keep the recipe/formulation secret. One way of achieving this is to restrict access to a handful of individuals within your organisation. However, this poses a problem if you plan to expand your business by outsourcing manufacture to third parties.

Protecting the recipe with a patent is possible. To be patentable, the recipe must provide some sort of technical effect, for example enhanced calorie burning, a contribution to oxygen uptake by the blood or another physiological response. It may be possible to include the essential elements within the patent but omit certain aspects that you retain as confidential. This is typically referred to as ‘know-how’.

We’ve developed a new polymer film for use in packaging. What’s the best way to stop our competitors from copying it?

If the polymer material or other aspects of the film are new and solve a technical problem, or provide a technical enhancement over existing films, it should be possible to obtain a patent. This would be the best form of protection to secure your commercial position, since you’d have exclusivity to manufacture and sell the product in the specified territory. If you experience commercial success, you may choose to later license the patent to accommodate multiple suppliers.

Can we prevent a competitor from selling an advanced composite very similar to our own?

The first question to consider is: do you have a patent? If not, your options are limited. If you do, the competitor’s product or process should be compared with the main claims of your patent.

You could then be in a position to request ‘undertakings’ from the competitor, which may include requests like:

  • further commercialisation ceases
  • all remaining, infringing products in stock are delivered to you
  • all past sales and profits relating to the product are revealed, with a compensation package to be agreed.

You should also check whether the competitor has a patent for its materials. If it does, you should check to see if your product falls within the patent’s scope. Assuming that you also have a patent, there’s a possibility of cross licensing the technologies so that both of you can commercialise your respective products to the exclusion of all other competitors.

We want to develop a new fibre blend for textiles. Some of our competitors have large patent portfolios and we’re concerned about infringement. How do we proceed?

A patent infringement search can be expensive. However, if the search is restricted to specific competitors, it becomes cheaper and more manageable. It would be wise to run a search to try and identify all key patents relating to fibre blends for textiles. A more informed decision can then be made if various patents are identified that could pose an infringement risk. A detailed analysis might be needed for certain patents — however, you may find that it’s possible to ‘design around’ a patent based on developments you’ve made. For example, if you use different materials or concentrations of materials, or your fibre blend doesn’t include all the essential components listed in the patent main claims, it may be that patent infringement can be avoided.

If a competitor has a highly relevant patent and your new blend would fall within its claims, it would be better to know this before commencing any commercial activity. There would also be the option to request a licence if you did want to proceed.

If your fibre blend includes all the fundamental components of that of a competitor, and therefore does fall within its patent but additionally includes a further component that provides distinct advantages, it may be possible for you to obtain a patent for this improved fibre blend. You may then be in a position to negotiate a cross-licence to allow one or both of you to commercialise the new blend.

We’re in the construction industry and have a new composite sheathing board. We’d like to obtain a patent for it, but the board has already been released to customers. What should we do?

If you have non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or confidentiality agreements with your customers, it may still be possible to obtain a valid patent. However, if the board has already been released into the public domain, a patent may no longer be an option.

To be successful, a patent application must relate to/define technology that is new (novel). If it has already been publicly disclosed before the filing date, it wouldn’t be considered new. In some situations, it may be an advantage to file a patent application as soon as possible (within days) and then to assess the situation as to what information may or may not be publicly released. At least then you’re attempting to protect your position, and it may be possible to obtain valid patent rights for some (or certain parts) of the new board.

Our new cosmetic formulation performs very similarly to that of a competitor, but ours is made from environmentally friendly, 100% sustainable materials. Can we protect it?

The short answer is probably yes.

If your new cosmetic uses different raw ingredients, you should be able to obtain a patent for the formulation. That is, even if the formulation uses existing and known compounds/substances, providing that the collection or assembly of compounds is new, obtaining a patent should be possible. A formulation including one or more sustainable materials that haven’t already been used in similar cosmetics would be enough for patent protection. The new formulation would have a technical effect by solving a problem over existing formulations (i.e. by being environmentally friendly, using sustainable raw materials, reducing carbon footprint or manufactured by energy-efficient processes).

We've discovered that an existing plastic sheeting used for covering building products is ideal as packaging for fresh food produce. Can we patent this?

Obtaining a patent for a new use of an existing material is possible. It would be important to compare any similarity with the old and new uses. Here, the construction sector should be sufficiently far removed from the food packaging industry and as such, it could be argued that it wouldn’t be ‘obvious’ to apply a polymer film used in construction to preserve organic food produce.

Our new textile/fabric is made using well-known weave and knit patterns. However, we use different combinations of patterns to create a strong but highly elastic and stretchable fabric. Should we try to obtain a patent?

Today, it’s rare that patents relate to entirely new products and processes. The vast majority are concerned with small improvements and innovations of existing technology.

In this case, if the combinations of different weave and knit patterns can be defined (for example, referring to how the different textile sections sit relative to one another and integrate), it should be possible to obtain a patent. Also relevant is the technical effect created by the combination of different patterns. The fact that the textile is strong but very stretchy/elastic is helpful when applying for a patent.

We’re a distributor in the cosmetics sector. Our customers have large patent portfolios. We’ve developed a new product/formulation using recycled materials. Should we try to secure a patent or just sell the idea?

Without a patent, there is arguably not a great deal for you to sell. A patent is a strong, intangible asset and can make a significant contribution to company valuations. One or more commercially significant patents can underpin enormously valuable company acquisitions.

The best way forward is likely for you to file a patent application before discussing this with your customers. A patent search would also be an option to assess your customers’ patent portfolios. Specific company name patent searching can be useful to assess the patentability potential for your new product/formulation as well as any potential infringement risks from the commercialisation of your new development.

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Case studies

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