Mayhall Fondren Blaize

Litigation against patent trolls intersects with oil & gas law

Louisiana has had its share of litigation in the federal courts involving so-called patent trolls. Such companies collect patents and sue other companies for violating the patents that they hold. This has been a lucrative business but one that has been criticized by many industries and by the courts. A recent case has reached the U.S. Supreme Court that intersects the patent troll issue with oil & gas law.

A controversial procedure called "inter partes reviews" allows the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reconsider whether its original granting of a certain patent was correct. If the Patent Office takes up the petition and decides against the patent or patents, it is a relatively inexpensive way for large companies to stop the patent troll company from its aggressive attacks on various business entities. The IPR process was authorized by the America Invents Act passed in 2011.

Statistically, most challenges to the patents held by patent-holding companies have been successful. One company, Oil States Energy Services, has appealed the IPR process as being unconstitutional. This is based generally on the right to have one's invention protected by law, and it attacks the procedure as an illegal confiscation of one's property interests.

Its argument is with Greene's Energy Group, alleging that Greene's used a patented process used in hydraulic fracturing, the process known as fracking. The patent office granted the IPR and ruled that Greene's was not violating a valid patent held by Oil States Energy Services. The Supreme Court is set to decide the appeal, which could have important impact not only in Louisiana but nationwide. The decision will impact not only oil & gas law interests but also will have a deep impact on high technology companies that thrive on innovative changes in rapidly-changing areas of that industry.

Source: arstechnica.com, "Supreme Court will weigh in on troll-killing patent-review process", Joe Mullin, June 13, 2017

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