WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — A federal judge in Delaware is weighing whether to maintain a standstill she ordered last month in a patent dispute between two rival biofuel manufacturers.
Attorneys for Butamax Advanced Biofuels, a joint venture between the DuPont Co. and BP, asked the judge Tuesday to maintain the status quo while they appeal her denial of a preliminary injunction against Colorado-based Gevo Inc.
Following that ruling two weeks ago, Gevo declared that it was free to sell its isobutanol to any customer in any market, including the fuels industry.
Butamax, which is developing biobutanol for use as an additive in automobile fuel that has certain advantages over ethanol, says it would suffer irreparable harm if Gevo is allowed to enter the fuels market before a final court ruling on whether it is infringing on Butamax patents.
Butamax asked U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson to maintain the status of her June 12 order limiting Gevo's sales of isobutanol produced at a startup plant in Luverne, Minn., to a subsidiary of South Africa-based energy and chemicals company Sasol for chemical applications, and to the U.S. Air Force for jet fuel testing applications.
Robinson said she would issue her ruling no earlier than Friday.
While saying Butamax has a heavy burden in proving that she should maintain the status quo, the judge also expressed concern about apparent contradictions between what Gevo has told the public and what is has told the court.
Robinson noted that Gevo was arguing that it would suffer irreparable harm if she maintains restrictions on its entry into the fuels markets, despite the company's previous indications to the court and in public statements that its business plan was primarily focused on the chemical industry.
"There's been so much inconsistency between public and litigation statements," she told Gevo attorney James Brogan.
Robinson also seemed to dismiss Brogan's arguments that preventing Gevo from moving forward in trying to develop fuel industry partnerships until the patent dispute is finally resolved will scare away investors and make it difficult for the company to raise much-need capital.
"You're asking me to base a decision on a market that is not predictable," the judge said, suggesting that investors are "fickle" and that those who might decide to turn away or sit on the fence now could quickly swing Gevo's way if it wins the patent fight.
"It's hard for me to believe that anything on Wall Street is written in stone," she said. "It's hard for me to believe that there are lost investors who can't be made up."