Patent Infringement Gevo Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Butamax

Editor: Dominik Stephan

After been granted two patents on bio–based isobutanol, American biofuels company Gevo filed a lawsuit against Butamax, a BP and DuPont business, for patent infringements. Its only the latest development in a long row of legal activities of the two companies.

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“Gevo’s lawsuit against Butamax is baseless and irresponsible” said Paul Beckwith, CEO of Butamax. (Picture: Butamax)
“Gevo’s lawsuit against Butamax is baseless and irresponsible” said Paul Beckwith, CEO of Butamax. (Picture: Butamax)

Englewood, Colorado/USA – Gevo files another lawsuit against Butamax, a joint venture of BP and DuPont, after been granted two patents on biobased isobutanol production methods. The two patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) cover technologies that enable the low-cost, high-yield production of bio-isobutanol, a technology that Gevo believes to be infringed by Butamax and Dupont.

Gevo was awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,017,375, “Yeast Organism Producing Isobutanol at a High Yield” (“PDC Patent”), and U.S. Patent No. 8,017,376, “Methods of Increasing Dihydroxy Acid Dehydratase Activity to Improve Production of Fuels, Chemicals, and Amino Acids” (“AFT Patent”). Gevo explains that the PDC Patent focuses on converting an ethanol producing yeast into an isobutanol producing one. The ethanol production of the yeast strains is thereby virtually eliminated, Gevo claims, enabling isobutanol production at high yields. The AFT Patent covers important enzymatic steps in Gevo’s intracellular approach for producing isobutanol in yeast.

Gevo Sees Infringement of Technology Patents

“In layman’s terms, these inventions, and others addressed in Gevo’s pending patent applications, help to turn an industrial yeast strain into a highly efficient cell factory to produce isobutanol,” said Brett Lund, EVP & General Counsel of Gevo. “We used synthetic biology to reprogram the yeast to make isobutanol instead of ethanol. In other words, we changed the yeast so that it makes what we want instead of what it wants, and we made it so it does it really well.”

These patent grants also enable Gevo to exclude others from using this technology in the U.S., the company explains. “Our lawsuit is based on Butamax’s own publications describing their use of the technology that Gevo invented first and for which we have received patents,” said Mr. Lund. “We expect the breadth and strength of our patent estate to grow considerably over the coming months as our patent applications convert into granted patents.”

Butamax Believes Lawsuit to Be “Baseless and Irresponsible”

Butamax CEO Paul Beckwith believes the lawsuit to be “baseless and irresponsible”. According to Beckwith, Gevo has rejected an offer to verify Butamax's technology themselves: “When Butamax makes isobutanol, we do not use the technology claimed in the Gevo patents. We are so confident about this, that we offered Gevo an opportunity to independently verify that Butamax does not infringe either of these patents. Ignoring both our offer to verify and the facts, Gevo instead filed its lawsuit.” The company now plans to seek legal relief from the case.

Butamax COO Peter Matrai believes that Gevo compromises intellectual property of Butamax: “Gevo’s patents are based on Butamax’s technology and cannot be practiced to make isobutanol without infringing Butamax’s rights,” he explained.

Its not the first time that Gevo and Butamax take legal actions: already earlier this year, Gevo filed with the USPTO to invalidate certain Butamax patents after two patent infringement lawsuits against Gevo in the past.