A manufacturer of systems that blend butane into gasoline prior to retail sale sued a competitor, accusing it of infringing on its patents. The competitor argued that the patents were invalid because the original inventors had sold their patented system to a third company more than a year before they filed for patents on the system, and because the plaintiff had allegedly engaged in inequitable conduct while prosecuting its patent claim. The Northern District of Illinois rejected the competitor’s arguments, finding that the sale of the system was made for experimental purposes and that the plaintiff’s conduct did not meet the high threshold required to invalidate the patents.
The plaintiff, Sunoco Partners, acquired its patents when it purchased the butane blending business of a company called Texon Terminals in 2010. The competitor, U.S. Venture, Inc. is in the business of mixing butane into gasoline prior to its distribution to retail outlets. In 2012, Venture retained Technics, Inc. to install a butane blending system at three of Venture’s fuel terminals located in Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sunoco later filed suit against U.S. Venture and Technics in federal court, accusing the companies of infringing on its patents when they installed the butane-blending systems at U.S. Venture’s fuel terminals. Continue reading