Offshore Hydrocarbon Mapping, the Aberdeen-based oil and gas survey company, yesterday welcomed a UK High Court decision to revoke three key patents granted by the European and UK patent offices to Norwegian firm EMGS.
The decision followed a case brought by the world’s biggest oilfield service group, Schlumberger, on the grounds that the ideas that the patents sought to protect were already well known and in the public domain.
The patents covered the general use of controlled-source electromagnetic (CSEM) surveying for direct detection of hydrocarbons, the direct detection of hydrocarbons by CSEM using certain 3D geometries, and combining CSEM and seismic for direct detection of hydrocarbons.
OHM said yesterday it had stated for several years that these patents were invalid and unenforceable, especially given the long history of published prior academic research including notable work by Lucy MacGregor, one of the founders of OHM.
It added that the court’s decision confirmed that OHM, which specialises in CSEM surveys, could continue to operate within UK patent jurisdictions.
Ms MacGregor, OHM’s chief scientific officer, said: “We welcome legal clarification in line with our view of the situation. CSEM is a very valuable tool for oil and gas exploration.
“Too much time, effort and focus has been placed on dealing with EMGS’s now discredited patent claims rather than promoting the value of this technology to the industry.
“This decision will hopefully allow us all to get on with our mission of helping our clients improve their exploration success, without uncertainty, interference or threat of legal action from these claims.”
EMGS said it was disappointed by the outcome but still retained more than 115 patents in 32 legal jurisdictions around the world.
Chairman Bjarte Bruheim said the patents revoked applied only to certain activities in UK waters and it retained full patent protection in more than 30 other jurisdictions.
He added that EMGS could still appeal the High Court’s decision.
OHM said last month it was taking initiatives to raise cash, sell part of the business or all of it, and undertake further cost-reduction measures. It added that a failure to conclude one or more of these initiatives would result in significant doubt over its ability to continue.