Judge rules Gevo didn't infringe on Butamax patent

By Holly Jessen | March 21, 2013

A U.S. District Court judge filed a March 19 memorandum opinion that concluded Gevo Inc. did not infringe on a Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC patent. The court also denied Butamax’s motion to exclude Gevo’s expert testimony in regard to that patent and reversed a previous decision on excluding Gevo’s expert testimony on another patent.

The two companies are working to produce biobutanol. Gevo retrofitted a corn-ethanol plant in Luverne, Minn., to produce isobutanol and recently said it planned to resume ethanol production in 2013 while it optimizes its isobutanol technology and production rates. Butamax is a joint venture of DuPont and BP, formed to develop and commercialize biobutanol production.

Gevo said in a March 21 press release that Butamax acknowledged that Gevo does not infringe on Butamax asserted patents under the court’s construction of a key claim term in two of Butamax’s patents. As a result of the ruling, the trial scheduled for April 1 will be cancelled. "This is an outstanding victory for Gevo," Brett Lund, executive vice president and general counsel for Gevo, said in a prepared statement.  "We have consistently maintained that we do not infringe any Butamax patents and Butamax's concession resoundingly validates our position."

Butamax, on the other hand, announced March 20 it would immediately appeal the decision. “Butamax strongly disagrees with the court’s claim construction,” said CEO Paul Beckwith. “We do not believe it is consistent with either the patent, rules for patent claim construction or statements made by the Federal Circuit.”

The company pointed out that the court made no overall determination on literal infringement and denied all but two of Gevo’s 37 motions of invalidity on Butamax patent claims. “This is still an early stage in what is likely to be a long and complicated litigation, involving many patents that will take several years for the courts to resolve,” he said. “Butamax is currently enforcing six other patents against Gevo and will vigorously continue to do so while this case is appealed.”