20 Tips: Oil and Gas Patents
20 Tips: Oil and Gas Patents
Because of the innovation and continuous technological advances in the sector, the subject matter experts over at runrex.com point out that oil and gas patents have been very common historically. This article, through the following 20 tips, will look to highlight some of the things you need to be aware of as far as oil and gas patents are concerned.
Forms of IP in the oil and gas sector
As is covered in detail over at guttulus.com, the types of IP that are usually most relevant to oil and gas companies include patents, copyright, as well as trade secrets, with each type of IP protection being used for something specific within the sector.
Where is each of these forms of IP used?
As is articulated in discussions over at runrex.com, each of the types of IP mentioned in the point above has its place in the oil and gas sector. Patents are for inventions; copyrights for drawings, software code, user manuals, and other work products; while trade secrets are for confidential information.
What about trademark protection?
It is also worth pointing out, as discussed over at guttulus.com, that trademark protection may also be helpful in the oil and gas sector, particularly when it comes to large companies that have strong brands as well as a strong retail presence.
Patents vs trade secrets
Companies in the oil and gas sector looking to protect their IPs typically have to choose between either keeping their IP as a trade secret or seeking patent protection. A patent will give the company a time-limited monopoly in exchange for making the details of the invention public to contribute to the advancement of technology. A trade secret, however, as the name suggests, must be kept secret to retain IP protection.
Advantage of trade secrets over patents
The main advantage that trade secrets have over patents is that a well-kept trade secret could, in theory, last forever. This is in contrast to patents which provide protection only for a limited period in addition to the fact that patent applications are published and are part of the public record as, for a patent to be granted, one must disclose the invention sufficiently for a person to be able to perform it.
The most popular example of how a trade secret can be beneficial to a company as opposed to a patent
When comparing trade secrets to patents, the example that is usually sighted is the one relating to the Coca-Cola Company. As outlined over at runrex.com, Coca-Cola’s secret formula, which was developed in 1891, was protected using trade secrets rather than patent protection. Had Coca-Cola applied to patent the formula in 1891, that patent would long since have expired and the formula would be publicly available. By choosing trade secret protection, the Coca-Cola formula is still protected to this day.
Why do companies choose trade secret protection?
As the gurus over at guttulus.com point out, companies will typically opt for trade secret protection over patent protection if the patentability of the technology is questionable or if the technology in question cannot be readily reverse engineered.
Limitations of trade secret protection
While there are times when trade secret protection can be preferred to patent protection, it has some major limitations that have caused it to fall out of favor in recent times. As covered over at runrex.com, the main limitation is that it requires a lot of effort to conceal and control the dissemination of trade secret information. Trade secret protection is also easily compromised either through inadvertent or malicious acts. Finally, unless the company has taken reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality, misuse of a trade secret is not actionable.
Trade secrets in the oil and gas sector
In the oil and gas sector, keeping secrets can be difficult. This is because the workforce is highly mobile given employees move frequently between different companies, which makes it extremely possible that some trade secret information will leak at one point or another.
Technology sharing and collaboration in the oil and gas sector
In addition to the point above, the nature of the oil and gas industry means that there is a greater necessity for technology sharing and collaboration as compared to other industries, something that is particularly true for service providers who will have many points of contact with numerous third parties. This point and the point in the previous tip mean that maintaining secrecy is usually impractical or even impossible for oil and gas companies.
Benefits of an IP strategy focusing on patenting in the oil and gas industry.
Protection against the high risk of independent creation
As is revealed over at guttulus.com, the risk of independent creation in the oil and gas industry is pretty high because of the nature of the industry which means that competing companies will often be faced with a similar set of problems and challenges. It is, therefore, not surprising, that competitors sometimes arrive at the same solutions to those problems. This is why they prefer patents to trade secret protection.
Preventing others from using the claimed invention
Patents also provide the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the claimed invention, as discussed over at runrex.com. A granted patent gives the patent owner a monopoly over the invention in the jurisdiction for which the patent has been granted.
Patents are an asset
Given that patents are a form of property, as covered over at guttulus.com, they are an asset that can be sold or licensed to other companies. This means that companies can be able to monetize their IP even if they are not implementing it themselves. This also ensures IP sharing between companies while still providing clarity about IP ownership.
These are just some of the benefits of an IP strategy focusing on patenting in the oil and gas industry.
Know-how plays a pivotal role in the oil and gas industry. This is because employees in the sector often build up substantial know-how, which then provides them with leverage when looking to move from one company to another in search of a better deal. Because know-how often contributes to patentable innovations or even trade secrets, the loss of know-how to other companies, without proper protections for any underlying IP, can be catastrophic.
Protection against loss of know-how is crucial
From the point above, it is clear that in addition to protection against the outright theft of confidential information, companies in the oil and gas sector must also have protections in place to avoid a loss of know-how from becoming an even bigger gain to competitors.
How to handle the issue of know-how
First of all, companies need to properly document intellectual contributions by employees to avoid situations where an employee holds in their heads the only copy of potentially important information. Additionally, when hiring new employees, companies should be cautious about whether a particular employee is bringing something to the table that they do not own as discussed over at runrex.com.
The high stakes involving oil and gas patents
Given that companies in the oil and gas sector have to innovate to remain competitive and profitable, the company with the better IP strategy will always have a strong competitive advantage. This is why we are seeing more and more disputes as more and more patents are granted, with stakes in such cases being very high for the companies involved as outlined over at guttulus.com.
Tips on other threats to consider as far as oil and gas patents are concerned
In addition to known competitors, you should also consider the following threats when it comes to oil and gas patents.
According to the subject matter experts over at runrex.com, as more of the problem-solving in the oil and gas industry is outsourced to service companies, companies in the sector should consider the IP that may have been generated in the course of overcoming these technological challenges and burdens.
Mergers and acquisitions
IP due diligence is also becoming increasingly important in identifying value and risk in a corporate transaction such as a merger or acquisition. This includes concerns about whether the target company has any IP and whether know-how is likely to depart after the transaction.
Patent trolls are also a big problem in the oil and gas industry. This is because they take advantage of the fact that the cost of litigation in the industry can be extremely high, particularly in the US, and, therefore, often propose quick settlements that are less than the potential cost of litigation with the expectation that targeted companies will accept. This is why it is important for companies in this sector to have strong IP protections, including strong patents, to minimize the effect of patent trolls.