Lawsuit dismissed, Gevo, Butamax won't go to trial over patent

By Holly Jessen | May 10, 2013

A trial scheduled for July 2014 between two biobutanol companies won’t happen after a lawsuit Gevo Inc. brought against Butamax Advanced Biofuels has been dismissed. The lawsuit was regarding Gevo’s U.S. Patent No. 8,101,808 (808 patent), Gevo's Integrated Fermentation Technology, also known as GIFT.

The two companies put forth differnt views on what happened in separate press releases issued May 10. Gevo said it agreed to temporarily dismiss the lawsuit because Butamax has not reached commercial production of biobutanol, as was previously expected by this time. Butamax said in its press release that the court dismissed Gevo’s claims against Butamax, adding that Gevo’s patent claims have been found unpatentable, a view Gevo previously disagreed with.  

Documents filed May 6 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware said it was “stipulated and agreed by and between” Gevo and Butamax that all claims asserted by Gevo against Butamax in the case and all counterclaims asserted by Butamax and DuPont in the case are dismissed without prejudice. The document went on to say that Gevo shall not assert its 808 patent against Butamax until a final Certificate of Reexamination is issued by the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office.

Gevo said in its press release that when it filed the lawsuit it was expected that Butamax would have a commercial biobutanol plant by now. Instead, DuPont said in early May it expected to start biobutanol conversion in 2015, Gevo said. “We decided to dismiss the 808 lawsuit, for now, because Butamax doesn't have a commercial plant that infringes the 808 patent and according to DuPont, they will not have a commercial plant by the time of the trial," said Brett Lund, executive vice president and general counsel of Gevo.

Not going to trial at this time over the 808 patent will save the company money in legal costs, Lund added. In addition, other lawsuits against Butamax and DuPont are still active and expected to go to trial in August. Gevo is suing for infringement of its biocatalyst patents in this case.

Butamax, on the other hand, said it was gratified that the case was dismissed. "From the outset, Butamax denied infringement of the '808 patent, and challenged its validity,” said Butamax CEO Paul Beckwith.

The company added that it plans to begin the first phase of a plant retrofit this year. In addition, Butamax pointed to seven patents it has been granted this year along. "We are very excited about our momentum and the commissioning of phase one of our first commercial project this year," Beckwith said.