Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Zealand Apitherapy Firm, University in Dispute Over Funding

Honey Ruling Leaves Sour Taste
By Nick Krause, The Independent, 6/17/2010

A 25-year relationship between Comvita and Waikato University has ended in acrimony after a protracted legal battle over the holy grail of manuka honey.Relevant offers

Farming Bad weather helps wool prices Farmers markets grow up, take off Honey ruling leaves sour taste Dirty dairy firm vows to clean up its act Farm mishaps claim 13 lives in 2009 Bargain hunters start early Iwi livid after Crafar cows harm historic site A farmer dies every 28 days - ACC SFF to focus on growing Chinese market Dairying income set to leap A 25-year relationship between a listed company and a university has ended in acrimony after a protracted legal battle over the holy grail of manuka honey.

New Zealand healthcare group Comvita, which has an annual turnover of more than $80 million, and WaikatoLink, the commercialisation arm of Waikato University, called in the lawyers after a multimillion dollar deal to share the costs and benefits of research turned sour.

The dispute reached its climax in a High Court judgment last week but the ruling from Justice Rhys Harrison pleased neither combatant.

Central to the case were efforts to discover the root of manuka honey's antibacterial qualities a potentially valuable secret giving manuka honey a huge premium in the market known in the industry as unique manuka factor, or UMF.

Brett Hewlett, Comvita CEO, said the company no longer had a working relationship with WaikatoLink or the University of Waikato, and has instead forged a close working relationship with the University of Auckland, where Comvita's research on honey and other products continues.

"Comvita relied heavily upon the representations made by WaikatoLink about the stage of progress the research team at the University of Waikato had made in isolating and classifying the active compound behind UMF manuka honey," Hewlett said. "Those representations subsequently turned out to be either false or misleading."

In 2006, Comvita and WaikatoLink agreed to form a joint venture with Comvita financing research in exchange for rights to discoveries by the university's scientists. Whether the parties ever agreed on the essential terms of the arrangement, as Comvita alleges, is inconsequential to the claim, the judge said. One of the scientists working on the research was Professor Peter Molan, a renowned biochemist whose identification of the medicinal qualities in manuka honey was responsible for its transition from low value commodity to the world's most sought-after honey…

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