Indianapolis, Indiana – GS CleanTech Corporation of Alpharetta, Georgia (“CleanTech”) has filed complaints against three new Defendants in its ongoing multidistrict litigation in which it asserts infringement of its patented corn-oil-extraction technology. Patent lawyers for CleanTech sued Homeland Energy Solutions, LLC of Lawler, Iowa (“Homeland”) in the Northern District of Iowa. Pacific Ethanol, Inc. of Sacramento, California (“Pacific”) was sued in the Eastern District of California. Guardian Energy, LLC of Janesville, Minnesota (“Guardian”) was sued in the District of Minnesota. At issue in this litigation are the following: Patent Nos. 7,601,858, Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems; 8,008,516, Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems; 8,008,517, Method of Recovering Oil from Thin Stillage; 8,283,484, Method of Processing Ethanol Byproducts and Related Subsystems; and 8,168,037, Method and Systems for Enhancing Oil Recovery from Ethanol Production Byproducts, which have been issued by the U.S. Patent Office. The cases were transferred to Southern District of Indiana as part of Multidistrict Litigation No. 2181.
This Multidistrict Litigation (“MDL”) began with an assertion of patent infringement by CleanTech of Patent No. 7,601,858 (the “‘858 patent”), which was issued on October 13, 2009. CleanTech sued numerous Defendants alleging infringement of that patent shortly after its issuance. The Defendants accused of patent infringement in prior litigation include: Big River Resources Galva, LLC; Big River Resources West Burlington, LLC; Cardinal Ethanol, LLC; ICM, Inc.; LincolnLand Agri-Energy, LLC; David J. Vander Griend; Iroquois Bio-Energy Co., LLC; Al-Corn Clean Fuel; Blue Flint Ethanol, LLC; ACE Ethanol, LLC; Lincolnway Energy, LLC; United Wisconsin Grain Producers, LLC; Bushmills Ethanol, Inc.; Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co.; Heartland Corn Products; Adkins Energy, LLC; Little Sioux Corn Processors, LLLP; Little Sioux Corn Processors, LLLP and Western New York Energy, LLC.
Since September 29, 2011, when the court overseeing the MDL issued its order on claim construction with respect to the disputed claims of the ‘858 patent, patentee CleanTech has further asserted infringement by some of the allegedly infringing Defendants of four additional patents in the ‘858 patent family: U.S. Patent Nos. 8,008,516 (the “‘516 patent”), 8,008,517 (the “‘517 patent”), 8,283,484 (the “‘484 patent”) and, the newest addition, 8,168,037 (“the ‘037 patent”), (the ‘858, ‘516, ‘517, ‘484, ‘037 patents are, collectively, the “‘858 patent family” or “the patents-in-suit”).
CleanTech claims that the method claimed increases the efficiency and economy of recovering corn oil. CleanTech’s patented methods recover corn oil by evaporating, concentrating and mechanically separating thin stillage (“stillage”), a byproduct of ethanol produced from corn, into two components: corn oil and a post-recovery syrup (“syrup”) with most of its corn oil removed.
In one embodiment, the patented method comprises initially processing the whole stillage by mechanically separating (such as by using a centrifugal decanter) the whole stillage into distillers wet grains and thin stillage, and then introducing the thin stillage into an evaporator to form a concentrated syrup byproduct. Prior to recombining the then-concentrated syrup with the distillers wet grains, the syrup is introduced into a second mechanical separator, such as a second centrifuge, which is different from the centrifuge that mechanically separated the whole stillage into distillers wet grains and thin stillage. This second centrifuge separates corn oil from the syrup thereby allowing for the recovery of usable corn oil. The syrup that exits the centrifuge is then recombined with the distillers wet grain and dried in a dryer. The corn oil that is extracted from the syrup can be used for various purposes such as feedstock for producing biodiesel.
Patent attorneys for CleanTech have made different claims against the three new Defendants. All of the patents-in-suit – the ‘858 patent, the ‘516 patent, the ‘517 patent, the ‘484 patent, and the ‘037 patent – have purportedly been infringed by Homeland. Guardian has been accused of having infringed four of the five patents-in-suit: the ‘858 patent, the ‘516 patent, the ‘517 patent and the ‘484 patent. One claim of patent infringement, regarding the ‘858 patent, has been asserted against Pacific.
Practice Tip: Multi-district litigation affords consistency and judicial economy, as well as allowing plaintiffs and defendants to concentrate their efforts in one forum. However, lawsuits that are not settled before trial must later be remanded to the transferring court and to a judge who has had little opportunity to become familiar with the issues.