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Update on fuel cell catalyst patent in Europe

13th August 2015

Ilika announces that the European Patent Office (EPO) has upheld Ilika’s opposition to a fuel cell catalyst patent from  Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA).

Certain claims of a granted European patent from Brookhaven Science Associates (BSA) might have impacted upon Ilika’s freedom to operate its own granted European patent. BSA manages Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) on behalf of the United States Department of Energy (US DOE). BNL is a US national laboratory located in Upton, New York, on Long Island, primarily funded by the Office of Science of the US DOE.

Ilika had therefore filed an Opposition against the BSA patent in February 2013, and oral proceedings took place before the Opposition Division on 17th March 2015 at the European Patent Office (EPO) in Rijswijk, Netherlands.  As a result of these proceedings, the BSA European patent was revoked.  The EPO issued a notice on 8th August 2015 that the opposition proceedings were now terminated with revocation of the patent as the time limit had expired for filing an appeal against the decision to revoke the patent.

Ilika's patents underpin the product development work, which was supported by the Carbon Trust through the £150,000 equity investment Ilika announced in September 2012. The Carbon Trust invested in Ilika through its Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge programme to support the commercialization of Ilika's high performing electro-catalysts for use in fuel cell vehicles. As part of the Carbon Trust's technical and commercial evaluation of the technology, Ilika submitted performance data for assessment by independent experts demonstrating the performance and stability of the catalyst. The performance data was generated in industry standard tests of membrane electrode assemblies (MEA's) carried out at an independent fuel cell testing facility.

In December 2013, Ilika announced it had submitted positive cell performance data along with material samples for evaluation to three global OEM's. Initial trials were carried out by these OEM’s in 2014 and Ilika continues to support evaluation trials by these three and other OEM’s. The adoption rate of fuel cell technology has been historically difficult to predict and at present there is only a limited number of vehicles powered by fuel cells on the UK market. However, the first production Toyota Mirai models landed in Europe this week ahead of the official launch in September. The limited number of cars available in Britain is already sold out. The launch of this vehicle signals an increased focus by OEM’s on cost-reduction of fuel cell technology with a view to enabling the mass market.

Commenting on this latest development, Graeme Purdy, Ilika CEO, said: “Ilika invests significantly in creating valuable intellectual property to underpin the growth of its business. Potentially competitive filings are monitored very closely and are challenged where appropriate.  We welcome this development as we now enjoy freedom to operate our European patent in addition to our United States patent where there had never been such issues because of the different claims structures between the granted US patents of both BSA and Ilika. This positive outcome supports Ilika’s commercialisation activities with interested OEM’s.”

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