The technology is used for the manufacture of food and malt-based drinks such as Horlicks and Boost.
In its petition, Steer Engineering said it had signed a contract with GSK Consumer that involved scaling up of the ‘Two Twin Extrusion Process’, being employed by the consumer division of the British major. The firm had set up a pilot manufacturing facility on the premises of one of GSK Consumer’s manufacturing agents, for the scaling up of the technology.
Following the GSK-Unilever deal, Steer is apprehensive that the technology it developed, along with advancements made in optimal measurements of temperature of the product, the feed rate of solids, and enzymes, among other parameters, could all be transferred to Hindustan Unilever (HUL) — which it claims is against the terms of the contract.
According to the terms, Steer will not only provide hardware, but also the technology and know-how involved in the process.
The company will, however, be entitled to protect its technology and intellectual property if GSK were to transfer it to a third party, the company said in its petition.
“There are some bits of the technology that would be transferred to GSK once the contract is over.
But the bulk of it would remain with Steer Engineering,” said Essenese Obhan, managing partner at Obhan and Associates, and the advocate for Steer Engineering.
The ‘Two Twin Extrusion Process’ enables continuous production of homogeneous and finely structured products, using bio-sourced or synthetic raw inputs.
Hearing Steer’s petition, the court on Friday asked GSK Consumer to file an affidavit detailing whether the said technology, related hardware and related know-how is actually being transferred to HUL, as claimed by the petitioner.
“It has been made clear that if there is any such move, status quo will be maintained till further orders of the court,” a single judge bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher said. The court will next hear the matter on January 23.
Unilever had, on December 3, agreed to buy GSK’s nutrition business and merge it with HUL in a $3.8-billion deal.