Gevo Partly Prevails on Butamax Patent-Infringement Claim

Gevo Inc., a U.S. biofuel producer, partly prevailed in its bid for a federal court ruling that it doesn’t infringe a Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC patent for a method to commercially produce isobutanol.

U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson in Wilmington, Delaware, today ruled that “as a matter of law,” Gevo doesn’t infringe Butamax’s patent under the so-called doctrine of equivalents. The judge agreed with Gevo that the difference between its method and Butamax’s wasn’t insubstantial as Butamax argued. The judge declined to rule that there’s no infringement at all, rejecting requests from both companies to resolve the dispute without a trial.

“While Butamax’s evidence of infringement is less than compelling, nonetheless, the court finds it sufficient to withstand Gevo’s motion for summary judgment, as it raises genuine issues of material fact as to how a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made would determine NADH-dependency,” the judge said, referring to the biochemistry of enzymes.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in August.

Butamax is a joint venture between BP Plc and DuPont Co. Pam Schools, a spokeswoman for Butamax, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call after regular business hours seeking comment on the ruling.

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. Robinson last year denied Butamax’s bid to block Gevo’s fuel sales.

The case is Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC v. Gevo Inc.,

11-cv-00054, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.