Patents in the Oil & Gas Sector

Author: Alexander Stack Professional Corporation |

There was an interesting article in the Globe and Mail on Saturday about patents in the petroleum sector. The lead:

Deep beneath the muskeg and forest of northern Alberta lies an untapped treasure. Call it the impossible oil sands, a vast pool of crude that lies beyond the reach of current technology.

Of the 1.7 trillion barrels of crude buried in the oil sands, the industry currently believes it can produce just 170 billion, or one out of 10 barrels.

But the Alberta government believes nearly double that number could some day be liberated if there are enough breakthroughs to figure out how to do it profitably.

Now, the battle to reach those impossible oil sands has opened a new front: the patent office.

The general upshot:

As Canada’s oil and gas companies pour billions into ever more challenging oil and gas reserves, they find themselves in a growing technological arms race that has produced a surge in patent applications from an industry that has historically paid little attention to protection of intellectual property.

An interesting article to read. My impression is that oil and gas has always had some small companies who specialize in new technologies to access difficult sources - the article suggests that they are getting more focused on patents as a strategy. Also of interest to Canadian patent lawyers: the petroleum industry (i.e. reserves and extraction) are based in Canada out-of-proportion to our population, providing a fertile ground for Canadian (and Canadian-focused) litigation. Of course, that is not new - there has always been a stream of oil & gas patent cases around (Gilbert's recently represented Halliburton), but this article implies an upsurge in activity.

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