Technology patents could pose a significant business risk for oil & gas companies operating at the limits of Australia’s territorial waters, a new report warns.
The report (pdf), authored by Dr Mary Turonek of Griffith Hack lawyers, found there are nearly 5000 active oil & gas patents for inventions in the field of drilling and refining alone.
Those patents, however, may not be enforceable in some areas, particularly the shared exploitation area between Australia and Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor). This is because Timor-Leste has no patent law, and therefore mutual patent protection cannot be obtained.
Exploitation technology can also be subject to patent protection if the final destination country of the extracted resource has a patent over the machinery, operations or techniques used in mining the resource.
“In a globalised world ... where transactions for procurement of technology routinely transcend borders, it is important to understand that certain actions taken in one country may constitute infringement of a patent in a different country,” Turonek wrote.
The growth in LNG extraction is particularly noted in the report, with LNG moving from a niche to a major export product for Australian producers.
“Suppliers may also risk contributory infringement of a patent by supplying goods without the authority of the patentee, if the use of those goods by a third party would infringe a patent,” noted the report.
Turonek warns resources companies must perform a full IP and patent landscape check.
“Knowledge of the patent landscape provides a map of where infringement liability risk is evident,” the report stated.
Resources companies should also request a patent healthcheck from all suppliers, as well as engage with patent holder in relevant countries.