The oil & gas sector has a vital role to play in transitioning to net zero by 2050, and in mature basins like the UKCS, much can be achieved. Innovation and technology will be key to unlocking many of these opportunities.
Over the next three decades the offshore energy industry is likely to see technological change and advancement at an unprecedented level. The progress already made in this area with the likes of the OGTC accelerating many new projects shows a desire for collaboration and fostering a culture of innovation.
What is equally important as companies develop ideas, is consideration for how these investments are protected. By taking steps to protect their intellectual property assets, they are better placed to maximise the return on their investment.
The first stage in that process is to identify the intellectual property. That might mean educating employees on what intellectual property is, why it is so important to protect it and whom it must be protected from. Often companies only become aware of how valuable intellectual property is once the idea becomes widely known because it wasn’t identified and protected early enough.
Particularly when fostering a culture of innovation, it is important to have measures in place to ensure that ideas and new products developed on company time, and with company resources, are protected to avoid exploitation or losing competitive advantage.
Having identified the asset, what can you do to protect it? In the first instance, it might be as simple as marking it as confidential. This makes it easier to prove that someone has tried to take the information or asset without the appropriate authorisation. Papers should be locked away. Files need to be restricted to only those who need access and their duty to keep the information confidential should be made clear.
Depending on the nature of the intellectual property, registered rights may be more appropriate and afford stronger protection. In the context of new technologies to drive energy transition, that is likely to be patents, registered designs or trade marks. The rules surrounding what can be registered and what cannot be registered are complicated and specialist advice should be sought.
The energy transition is here. While the real winners are the environment and the community that serves the UKCS, companies able to adapt and innovate early will surely reap the benefit of being part of that story. Taking time to carry out an intellectual property audit now and get up to speed with the protections available will allow companies to maximise their investment in this area.
Andrew Scott is a senior associate in litigation at Brodies