Battle continues for Butamax and Gevo

THE conflict between Butamax and Gevo over isobutanol technology continues. Gevo recently received a landmark patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for its GIFT(R) separation unit, a central part of the company’s fermentation technology for the production of isobutanol.

The patent, “Recovery of Higher Alcohols from Dilute Aqueous Solutions,” addresses the separation technology used to produce propanols, butanols, pentanols, and hexanols, and also address how ethanol plants can be retrofitted to produce higher alcohols.

At the same time, Gevo also filed a lawsuit against Butamax Advanced Biofuels and DuPont charging them for infringement of the newly issued patent. Gevo contends that the two companies “perform the methods described” in the patent without Gevo’s authorization and should pay unspecified damages after a jury trial.

Butamax officials called the lawsuit allegations “unfounded.” According to Paul Beckwith, CEO of Butamax, they did not infringe the generic product separation technology claims in Gevo’s recent patent, which is already subject to a validity challenge by a Brazilian inventor. Butamax has filed a motion to dismiss Gevo’s previous case against Butamax. The company plans to pursue early resolution of this latest suit.

Butamax officials claim that 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.”

The battle between the two companies goes back over a year ago to when Butamax was first awarded its patent in December 2010 and filed suit for infringement against Gevo in January 2011.