USPTO grants request from Butamax to reexamine Gevo patent

By Erin Voegele | July 23, 2012

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC's request for reexamination of Gevo Inc.’s Gift Technology, U.S. patent 8,101,808. According to Butamax, the patent has 156 claims related to separation and recovery of various alcohols, including butanols. The claims also describe methods for retrofitting ethanol plants to produce higher alcohols.

In a statement, Butamax said that the USPTO issued an Office Action rejecting all 156 claims of the patent and found that the majority of claims were not entitled to the early priority date requested by Gevo.

“Butamax is very pleased with the reexamination order,” said Butamax CEO Paul Beckwith. “It is a resounding affirmation that this technology was first invented by Butamax and others. While our patent litigations with Gevo are complex, we believe we were the first to invent the foundational isobutanol production technology and this decision further validates our first-to-invent status.”

In response, Gevo has issued a statement calling Butamax’s press release misleading. “Reexaminations are part of the normal course of a patent dispute, especially when dealing with valuable technology,” Said Brett Lund, Gevo’s executive vice president and general counsel. “This reexamination does not validate patent applications of Butamax or anyone else—that isn't what reexaminations do.”

According to Lund, Gevo's '808 Patent covers multiple production technologies for higher alcohols in retrofitted ethanol plants. “We believe that Butamax is infringing at least one of those technologies,” he said. “While our claims have been set aside in this most recent USPTO action, Gevo's lawsuit against Butamax for infringing this '808 Patent remains unaffected; the trial is scheduled for July of 2014.”

The litigation between the two companies is expected to last for years. Information provided by Butamax said that USPTO statistics show that reexamination typically takes approximately three years. Since the patents remain in effect during the reexamination process, the infringement lawsuit between Butamax and Gevo continues in parallel.