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Gevo Probably Didn’t Infringe Butamax Patent, Judge Rules

Gevo Inc. probably didn’t infringe a patent held by Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, a joint venture of DuPont Co. and BP Plc, and is free to sell its renewable-fuel products, a judge said in a pretrial ruling. Gevo surged as much as 59 percent.

Butamax sued Gevo, backed by the oil refiner Total SA and specialty-chemicals maker Lanxess AG, in 2011 alleging misuse of technology for genetically engineered microorganisms used to produce biofuels. U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, in a ruling filed yesterday, denied Butamax’s request for a preliminary injunction to block Gevo’s fuel sales.

“The court finds it unlikely that plaintiff will prevail on its claim of infringement” at trial, Robinson wrote in a 25-page opinion in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware. She also said that Gevo “raised a substantial question concerning validity” of two patent claims based on earlier inventions.

Gevo, based in Englewood, Colorado, is involved in several patent lawsuits with Wilmington-based Butamax. Gevo built a biofuels plant in Luverne, Minnesota, to produce renewable additives to be sold to oil refiners that make diesel and jet fuel. The Minnesota plant can also produce ethanol, according to court papers.

Sell Fuels

Based on the ruling, Gevo may sell fuels “in any market, to any customer, in any region,” the company said in a statement today. Butamax officials said they plan to appeal.

“This is an early step in a long and complex litigation process,” Paul Beckwith, the company’s chief executive officer, said in a e-mailed statement. “We remain highly confident in the ultimate outcome of this case and our other cases against Gevo.”

Gevo rose 29 percent to $7.66 at 12:11 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares earlier reached $9.44, the highest since May 3. Dupont rose 4 cents to $51.10 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

New patents Gevo has secured on technology for genetically engineered microorganisms should give it a “significant cost advantage” in the animal-feed market, Rob Stone, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in Boston, said in a research note today,

“We need to make sure we protect our intellectual property, so when Butamax is infringing, we’ve filed suit to protect that, and we’ll continue with that,” Brett Lund, Gevo’s general counsel, said today in a telephone call with investors. A trial over the patent claims is set for April 1, 2013, according to court dockets.

The case is Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC v. Gevo Inc., 11-cv-54, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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