Patent litigation itself is aggressive by nature, but the biofuel industry’s patents often get a harsher spotlight as the market for green technology and alternative fuel sources receives pressure from the global community. Butamax — a maker of technology to produce biobutanol — has been in a long patent dispute with Gevo — a producer of renewable isobutanol. Each has claimed that the other violates its biofuel patents, and they have met in courtroom after courtroom to determine who owns what intellectual property. The disputes have just been given another lease on life as Butamax has been granted another chance to assert its patents against Gevo in the U.S.  

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a district court’s summary judgments on February 18, allowing Gevo to defend its patents once again to determine whether they are valid, and whether Gevo is guilty of infringement. But this turn of events for both companies could just be the next in a long string of legal disputes that have stemmed from years of mutual patent persecution.  

The patents in question are related to the manufacturing of isobutanol, a gasoline blendstock, according to Bloomberg. The paper describes the determination of the court: “The court’s decision followed from a revised claim construction, where it held that the patentee’s definition of a key term was not as narrow as the lower court found because evidence about the knowledge of the person of ordinary skill at the time showed that a broader interpretation was more reasonable.” 

Gevo has released statements, published in the Wall Street Journal, on the determination of the court, as the two biofuel companies prepare to go at it again over patents that have been at the core of a three-year debate: “The claims of the two Butamax patents at issue are currently under reexamination at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which has declared them unpatentable. Gevo believes that it does not infringe any valid claims, and at this time maintains freedom to produce and sell isobutanol worldwide and into all markets.”

The court’s dispute of material fact and lack of written description will call both parties to represent themselves further before an ultimate decision can be made. 


Further reading:

Judge orders Dow Chemical to pay $1.2 billion for price-fixing 

Patents in Canadian energy abound

Hyundai agrees to settle fuel-economy suits