Gevo responds to court request in patent dispute with Butamax

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 13, 2012

Isobutanol developer Gevo Inc. called the latest round in the patent battle with Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC a positive step. The judge in the U.S. District Court of Delaware requested Gevo “maintain the status quo” until the court issues a decision on the pending request for a preliminary injunction. “We got our first plant up and running pretty quickly, before the judge got a chance to make her decision,” explained Brett Lund, Gevo executive vice president and general counsel. Butamax had requested the court shut down Gevo’s operations entirely until the lawsuits are settled. The first lawsuit isn’t scheduled to go to trial until April 2013.

“In light of our recent startup and Gevo’s ability to bring commercial scale isobutanol to market, we respect the judge’s decision to issue an order instructing Gevo to maintain the status quo,” Lund said in a statement following the decision. “As the judge has not made a decision for or against the preliminary injunction to date, it’s understandable that she wants to make sure Gevo sticks to its current business plan. For Gevo, that means we continue to optimize Luverne operating parameters, continue engineering work and preparation for construction of Redfield and most importantly we sell our renewable isobutanol to Sasol and the U.S. Air Force.”  

Startup operations at the retrofitted Agri-Energy LLC in Luverne, Minn., are expected to be completed by the end of the month. The company also has a joint venture with Redfield Energy LLC to install its technology at the Redfield, S.D., plant. “Our first two plants are sold out to Sasol and the U.S. Air Force,” Lund added. “We can continue selling to those and maintain the status quo.” He expects the order to be temporary, lasting until the court rules on the preliminary injunction in the next few weeks. 

Butamax filed two patent infringement complaints against Gevo last year and earlier, Gevo requested the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reexamine its rules on two Butamax patents.

Butamax is a joint venture by BP and DuPont. The company is poised for commercial launch from 2012-’13, it said, and is forming collaborations with ethanol producers to retrofit existing facilities for butanol production. Gevo is also working to convert existing ethanol plants to biorefineries that will produce isobutanol.