Caffeine Gum Has Wrigley On Edge

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. has invented several new chewing gums that may never hit store shelves, but that hasn't stopped the Chicago company from protecting those ideas. The world's largest gum company sued a small New Jersey company called GumRunners LLC, claiming that its Jolt Caffeine Energy Gum infringes on a Wrigley patent. The federal lawsuit, filed last week in Chicago, alleges GumRunners has caused "irreparable damage to Wrigley," even though Wrigley does not sell a caffeine-based gum. The company is asking the court to stop GumRunners from continuing to sell its gum as well as seeking undisclosed monetary damages. After taking such standbys as Doublemint and Juicy Fruit gums around the world, Wrigley has turned to its research lab to boost growth. It has introduced higher-priced specialty gums, such as Orbit and Everest. Although not all of the products have been a success, such as a heartburn-relief gum, the ideas represent a new era of innovation at the 106-year-old company. Some inventions have bordered on the unusual. Last year, the company received a patent for a gum that delivers sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient found in Viagra. The company also has developed a gum that is biodegradable--a feature meant to relieve environmental concerns about wads of gum stuck underneath desks or chairs. Neither of those gums have hit the market, and the company would not comment on the plans for those products or the caffeine-based gum. But the patents serve to safeguard the company from encroachments by competitors. And Wrigley has shown a willingness to enforce them. In January, the company sued confectioner Cadbury Adams USA LLC for allegedly copying parts of its recipe for minty gum. The suit is pending.

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