Eurogiant BASF recently announced the launch of their new organozinc halide capability. BASF is offering a portfolio of organozinc halide reagents on the strength of a licensing agreement with Rieke Metals of Lincoln, Nebraska. The value proposition that BASF is pushing is the compatibility of organozinc species with functional groups that are normally incompatible with organolithium or organomagnesium reagents. Likewise, the zinc reagents will undergo a variety of coupling and Michael-type reactions, though apparently with additives.

It is interesting to speculate as to the basis of the license. Does Rieke have a proprietary process to license? Is it based upon trade secrecy or a patent? Certainly Rieke Metals has considerable expertise with organozinc chemistry plus a grip on its trademarked Rieke ®Zinc

A perusal of the patent literature comes up with only one patent application by Rieke Metals as the assignee. However, Prof Rieke has been patenting for the University of Nebraska and obtained fifteen patents as of this date. The most recent patent is US 5,964,919 issued Oct. 12, 1999.  A number of them could contain the value that BASF would require to step into this venture.

Of interest is US patent 6,603,034 issued to “Consortium fr Elektrochemische Industrie GmbH” for “A process for preparing organozinc halides in a solvent, comprising reacting a reactive halogen compound with zinc in at least one carboxylic ester, to produce a solution.”  Hmmm.

I’m a distant admirer of Rieke Metals. I respect how they have grown into their niche and have remained focused on the prize. I hope the venture goes well for all concerned.