There are not really a lot of bio-isobutanol producers out there — the blog counts three right now and two of them are at each other’s throats when it comes to patents.
Both US-based Gevo and Butamax (the biobutanol business of DuPont and BP) have been going at it for a year now when Butamax first filed an infringement lawsuit in January last year regarding a patent (7,851,188) that Butamax received from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on December 2010.
In August 2011, Gevo asked the USPTO to invalidate the patent ’188 and as well Butamax’s patent 7,993,889 (granted to Butamax that month) which covers methods for low-cost bio-isobutanol production.
In September 2011, Gevo received two patents (8,017,375 and 8,017,376) covering its own bio-isobutanol production. At the same time, Gevo filed a counter-lawsuit against Butamax for allegedly infringing on their newly issued patents.
Last month (I can’t believe it’s February already!), Gevo announced that it has received another patent (8,101,808) from the USPTO covering the company’s separation technology used to produce propanols, butanols, pentanols, and hexanols. The claim also address how ethanol plants can be retrofitted to produce higher alcohols.
Gevo filed another lawsuit against Butamax claiming that it has infringed on this newly issued patent. Butamax responded back and stated that Butamax does not use this technology.
“Because vacuum flash fermentation technology was found to require high energy and water consumption to meet commercial productivity, Butamax developed fundamentally different product recovery systems. The Butamax™ approach combines energy integration, reduced environmental impact and attractive production metrics. Butamax™ technology is covered by the 7,993,889 patent which is the subject of the Butamax™ lawsuit against Gevo for their unlawful infringement. This patent has significant priority over all of Gevo’s patent filings.” – Butamax
Butamax said it has already filed a motion to dismiss Gevo’s earlier lawsuits and will also pursue another injunction against Gevo on this latest suit. BUtamax said the court will consider the injunction in March 2012. The company will seek a permanent injunction post-trial set for April 2013.
Butamax also claimed that the validity of Gevo’s recent patent is already challenged by a Brazilian inventor.