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Novozymes Sues Danisco, Says It Infringes Enzymes Patent for Biofuels

Novozymes A/S filed a patent- infringement suit against Danisco A/S over an enzyme used in biofuel production in the latest legal battle between the two market leaders.

Novozymes said its smaller Danish rival infringes a patent on an alpha amylase enzyme, according to a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Madison, Wisconsin. Novozymes, based in Bagsvaerd, Denmark, asked for a court order to stop what it says is Danisco’s infringement of the patent. It didn’t specify the amount of damages it is seeking.

Novozymes and its U.S. division “have suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable injury and damages,” from Danisco using the technology, the company said in the lawsuit. Novozymes filed the suit the same day it obtained the patent.

Both companies produce enzymes that break down organic material, such as grain and corn, to form bioethanol, which is used as an alternative to fossil fuels. Danisco, based in Copenhagen, paid Novozymes $15.3 million to settle a 2007 patent dispute over another enzyme, also used in ethanol production.

“Alpha-amylases are a very important enzyme-group in the conversion of starch to sugar, not least relevant for the biofuel industry,” Novozymes spokesman Johan Melchior said in an e-mailed statement. “Novozymes will now await the court’s decision and cannot comment further on the case.”

‘Predictable’ Clash

Danisco pared gains in Copenhagen trading, advancing 1.4 kroner, or 0.4 percent, to 389.8 kroner ($66.39) at 3:28 p.m. The shares had risen as much as 2.6 percent today. Novozymes rose 9 kroner, or 1.4 percent, to 644 kroner.

“It’s predictable that we clash with each other on such issues from time to time,” Danisco Chief Executive Officer Tom Knutzen said in a phone interview, referring to the Novozymes suit. “We’re much better prepared for such cases compared to when we lost last time, and we also have our own patents.”

Knutzen said in a May 10 interview that patent infringement was one of the biggest “threats” to his company’s profitability.

The company sued Danisco for use of two applications of alpha-amylase products -- Danisco’s GC358, which is used for biofuels and Clearflow AA, a starch product.

The Madison court is known for holding patent trials more quickly than in other courts. It takes, on average, about 12 months for a patent case to go trial in Madison, compared with a nationwide average of 26.6 months, said Greg Upchurch, director of research for St. Louis-based LegalMetric Inc., which compiles litigation data for law firms and companies.

Danisco and Novozymes are also developing so-called second- generation bioethanol, which uses organic waste such as corn- cobs, rather than grain and other food stuffs. Danisco estimates the global market for such second-generation biofuel will grow to $75 billion by 2020.

The case is Novozymes A/S, et al v. Danisco A/S, et al, 10- cv-251, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

To contact the reporters on this story: Christian Wienberg in Copenhagen at cwienberg@bloomberg.net; Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net.

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