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    Judge Recuses Himself in Unocal Case

    Official learns he had a "financial interest" in patent infringement suit.


    EL SEGUNDO, Calif., -- Unocal Corp. said that U.S. District Court Judge J. Spencer Letts has recused himself from the case involving infringement on the company's '393 gasoline patent due to his discovery that he had a "financial interest" in one of the parties involved in the litigation.

    In an order of recusal issued December 20, Judge Letts stated, "The issue arose because of an error in the way that this financial interest was identified in my investment records and my financial disclosures." The judge did not identify the party in which he had this financial interest.

    In October, Judge Letts had granted the company's motion for summary judgment requesting an accounting of infringement of its '393 cleaner burning gasoline patent by a group of five refiners. Further proceedings in the case will now be considered by the new judge.

    The defendants in the case are Atlantic Richfield Co. (now merged with BP), Chevron U.S.A., Inc., Texaco Refining and Marketing Inc. (now merged with Chevron), Exxon Corp., Mobil Oil Corp. (now merged with Exxon), and Shell Oil Products Co.

    Unocal holds five patents on cleaner burning gasoline compositions. Unocal has signed licensing agreements with eight companies, giving them the right to produce and blend cleaner burning gasolines using Unocal's patented formulations.

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