U.S. Water: Court of appeals overturns patent decision

By U.S. Water | January 23, 2017

U.S. Water has announced that on Dec. 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears patent appeals from all U.S. district courts, vacated an adverse judgment against it by the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.  The Court of Appeals overturned a decision by the district court that patents owned by U.S. Water relating to the use of phytase to reduce deposits in ethanol processing equipment were invalid.  As a result, the case will return to the district court for further proceedings. 

“U.S. Water is pleased with the Federal Circuit’s careful consideration of its appeal as reflected in the decision vacating the judgment of invalidity.  U.S. Water intends to continue to protect its intellectual property and looks forward to proceeding in the district court.” said LaMarr Barnes, CEO of U.S. Water.

A common problem for ethanol producers is the formation of scale forming deposits in ethanol processing equipment. These deposits impede heat transfer and flow and compromise the proper operation of mechanical devices used in ethanol processing. U.S. Water’s pHytOUT technology was designed to control mineral deposit scaling, reduce back-end fouling and greatly reduce sulfuric acid use, among other benefits.  In 2013, the U.S. Patent Office issued U.S. Patent Nos. 8,415,137 and 8,609,399 relating to U.S. Water’s pHytOUT deposit control technology. 

U.S. Water has sued Novozymes for infringement of its patents in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, alleging that Novozymes provides a phytase product known as Phytaflow to its ethanol plant customers and instructs the plants to use the enzyme in an infringing manner.  On July 29, 2015, the district court found on summary judgment that U.S. Water’s patents were invalid and also dismissed one of Novozymes’ affirmative defenses.  However, the Federal Circuit vacated the judgment that U.S. Water’s patents were invalid and affirmed the dismissal of one of Novozymes’ defenses.  As a result of the Federal Circuit reversal, U.S. Water’s patents are once again presumed valid. The opinion by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit can be found at http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/15-1950.Opinion.12-14-2016.1.PDF.