Synthetic biology company Gevo (NASDAQ:374396307) is developing a technology platform that converts sugars into isobutanol. The four-carbon molecule has several big advantages over ethanol -- a two-carbon molecule -- including higher energy density, the potential to be a drop-in fuel compatible with current infrastructure, and the ability to be transformed into higher-value chemicals such as plastics and rubbers. When accounting for its potential in petrochemicals and specialty chemicals the global isobutanol market weighs in at over 70 billion gallons per year -- three times larger than the global ethanol market -- before accounting for fuels.

There is a pretty big prize awaiting the first handful of companies that can establish themselves in the industry. Unfortunately, the race for that prize also leads to cutthroat competition. Gevo has been embroiled in a fierce legal battle with Butamax, a joint venture between BP (NYSE:BP) and DuPont (NYSE:DD) that is seeking to develop its own isobutanol platform, for several years.

While Gevo recently won a major preliminary court decision over Butamax that will protect its technology, investors can expect a lengthy appeals process to weigh on shares. contributor Maxxwell Chatsko explains the latest developments and what it means for investors.