The Occupy Nigeria demonstrations of the 1st of January 2012, the oil subsidy probe and the ensuing “entrapment gone awry” gives credence to the fact that the oil and gas industry is risky, political and very expensive. Furthermore, the industry is constantly being scrutinised by governments, numerous regulatory bodies, investors and ordinary citizens.
It’s also important because it energises every other industry in the world.
I guess you are thinking, there is enough money to go around in Oil and Gas Industry, so why bother with “innovation” i.e. Intellectual Property?
For starters, Oil and gas companies are expected to comply with the mantra, “cheaper, better and faster” i.e. more productivity, less cost to consumers, but it must still manage international politics and not mess up our environment.
Furthermore, the oil and gas industry has little tolerance for inefficiency, and less tolerance for mistakes. Inefficiency and mistakes often brings with it negative branding, action by law makers and possible loss of business edge and sometimes loss of life as was seen in the Piper Alpha disaster, which has been described as the worst offshore accident to date.
Paradoxically the oil and gas industry probably has the best tools and capabilities covering operational efficiency and decision making. But at the same it seems more profitable to outsource the management, coordination and synthesis of the huge amounts of data obtained from wells, synthesise it and increase productivity this probably costs the oil and gas industry billions annually.
The industry needs new approaches to the management of well information, analysis of patterns and optimization of the outcomes in both upstream and downstream operations.
Prudent oil and gas companies will need to convert available information into actionable plans directed at enhancing keys areas like exploration and production, improvement of refining and manufacturing efficiency and for the oil majors, the optimization of global operations.
Research and operations in the oil and gas industry produce new ideas, procedures, software, compositions, equipment and plenty of data, especially in areas bothering on well enhancement activities and asset optimization for the oil and gas industry.
These makes up the basic intellectual properties of the industry which has potentially transformed the oil and gas industry from a commodity market to knowledge/innovation/intellectual property based industry.
Intellectual Property becomes a valuable asset to the oil and gas company, when it is registered and steps are taken to prevent competitors from accessing and using it for free.
Oily Intellectual Property;
The basic types of Intellectual property prevalent in the oil and gas sector are the following; Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, Trade Secrets and Others like brands, Know-How, Know – Who and Professional Credentials & Credibility.
Benefit of Oily Intellectual Property;
In protecting innovation, a key benefit of an intellectual property system is that a contractual right is only enforceable against the person who entered into contract with you; while a property right is enforceable against the whole world!
A patent is a document issued, upon application by a government office (or a regional office acting for several countries), which describes an invention and creates a legal situation in which the patented invention can normally only be exploited (manufactured, used, sold, imported) with the authorization of the owner of the patent
Patents in Nigeria are of limited duration, typically providing protection for a period of 20 years from the filing of the application for patent grant.
Patents cover things like cutting-edge technologies used in instrumentation, production data capture, horizontal drilling and multilateral wells.
The upstream oil and gas industry has been described as a “knowledge industry” because of new technologies such as three-dimensional acoustical sounding, horizontal drilling, and deep offshore drilling.
Perhaps the National assembly should do well by including provisions on Intellectual Property and Hydraulic Fracturing in the long awaited Petroleum Industry Bill, which should help nudge the Industry in the right direction IP wise.
Olufola Wusu Esq. © 2012
Counsel with Megathos Law Practice
Olufola Wusu is a Contract Review Specialist and Intellectual Property consultant