By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Jan. 23 -- A subsidiary of Unocal Corp. sued Valero Energy Corp., San Antonio, for alleged infringement of its reformulated gasoline patents.
Unocal is asking 5.75¢ for each gallon of gasoline produced by the alleged infringement, with the total to be tripled as punishment for "willful infringement."
Unocal claimed, "Valero has said openly that it made fuels covered by Unocal's patents in complete disregard for Unocal's intellectual property rights. Unocal has repeatedly invited Valero to negotiate a licensing agreement, but Valero has refused to have any discussions."
In its lawsuit filed in US District Court in Los Angeles, Union Oil Co. of California asked that the court force Valero to buy a license and to make periodic royalty payments.
This is seen by some as a test case for enforcement of the controversial patent. Some refiners have agreed to pay Unocal's patent fees, but others are "blending around" the patents with less efficient processes.
ARCO Corp., Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., and Texaco Inc. challenged the controversial patent in 1995. Eventually, the US Supreme Court upheld the patent ruling by refusing to hear the case (OGJ Online, Feb. 20, 2001). A jury in 1997 awarded Unocal damages of 5.75¢/gal for gasoline manufactured through infringement.
So far, Unocal has signed licensing agreements with eight companies at a rate of 1.2-3.4¢/gal. It said it is willing to negotiate commercial licensing agreements with all interested parties.