In previous posts (here and here), I’ve discussed the series of patent infringement suits brought by GreenShift and its New York subsidiary, GS Cleantech, against a host of ethanol producers across the midwestern United States.
The litigation currently consists of 11 actions in which GreenShift has accused the defendants of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,601,858 (’858 Patent), entitled “Method of processing ethanol byproducts and related subsystems.”
Last month the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation granted GreenShift’s motion to consolidate all the cases in the Southern District of Indiana.
In the Transfer Order, the Panel found that there would be common questions of fact among all the cases and consolidation would be more efficient for the courts and more convenient for the parties:
we find that these eleven actions involve common questions of fact, and that centralization . . . in the Southern District of Indiana will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.
In particular, the Panel noted that the validity and enforceability of the ’858 Patent are likely to be at issue in all eleven actions.
The Panel chose the Southern District of Indiana because it was a satisfactory and relatively convenient forum for most of the defendants:
This district is a primary or alternative choice for transferee forum for all but one responding party. Moreover, this readily accessible district is near many of the alleged direct infringers — ethanol manufacturers that allegedly employ the patented process — which are scattered throughout the Midwest.
The ’858 Patent is directed to methods of recovering oil from byproducts of ethanol production using the process of dry milling, which creates a waste stream comprised of byproducts called whole stillage.
According to the ’858 Patent, whole stillage contains valuable oil but prior processes for recovering this oil have been expensive or inefficient.
GreenShift’s patented method includes mechanically separating the whole stillage into distillers wet grains and thin stillage and then running the thin stillage into an evaporator to form a concentrated byproduct, or syrup. The syrup is fed through a second centrifuge, which separates usable corn oil from the syrup.
Defendants in the consolidated litigation include Adkins Energy, Cardinal Ethanol, Big River Resources Galva, Amaizing Energy Atlantic, Center Ethanol, Bushmills Ethanol, United Wisconsin Grain Producers, Blue Flint Ethanol and Iroquois Bio-Energy.