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Intellectual property

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Generally speaking, intellectual property is any product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use. Creators of intellectual property have exclusive ownership and rights to their intangible assets, which in the realm of the oil and gas industry usually applies to discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, and designs. Intellectual property is traditionally composed of four categories: patents, copyright, trademarks, and trade secrets. [1] However, the main intellectual properties of interest in the petroleum industry are trademarks, copyright, and patents.[2]


Trademarks are names, words, symbols, designs, or combinations of these, that are used to distinguish the goods or services of one company from those of another company.


Copyrights protect creative works, like brochures or technical descriptions, from being copied without the creator’s permission. Generally, the holders of rights have "the right to copy," but they also have the right to be credited for their work, to decide who may adapt the work, who may financially benefit from it, and other related rights.[3]


Patents protect inventions, meaning any new form of technology. Though it’s common knowledge that patents can cover new machines, tools, devices, chemical compositions, and industrial processes. In some countries like the United States of America, patents can also protect less traditional technology like the logic behind a software program (i.e. a program for analysis of MWD data) or a method of doing business (i.e. a method for targeting customers). It is a good idea for creators to assume that any new ideas that hold value, and that offer an advance over what has been previously known, could be eligible for patent protection. A patent typically protects an invention for 20 years. What can be patented can differ from country to country. To be eligible for patent rights, an invention must comply with four requirements: be a patentable subject matter; be novel; be inventive (or non-obvious); and possess industrial application (or be useful). Some countries have utility patents that don't require a full investigation from the patent office on the requirement. The utility patent generally only protects the invention for 10 years.[2]


  1. Cornell University Law School. Intellectual Property. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Caldwell, R.B. Patent Monopoly—Protecting Your Ideas. 2002. Presented at the Petroleum Society’s Canadian International Petroleum Conference 2002, Calgary, 11 – 13 June. PETSOC-2002-104 .
  3. Wikipedia. Copyright.

Noteworthy papers in OnePetro

Bailey, M.F., Lanham, B.E., Leibowitz, J. 1951. Problems of Classification and Documentation in the United States Patent Office in the, field of Petroleum and Allied Subjects. Presented at the 3rd World Petroleum Congress, The Hague, the Netherlands, 28 May-6 June. WPC-4902.

Brewer, Peter L. 2002. Intellectual Property for the Oil Field. Presented at the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference, Dallas, 26-28 February. SPE-74467-MS.

Buskop, W. 2002. Subsea Techonology: Can It Be Patented And How? Subsea Controls and Data Acquisition Paris, 13-14 June. SUT-SCADA-02-071.

Groover, Robert. 1999. Managing Patent Quality: Examples/Advice for Offshore/Marine Technology. Presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, 3 May. OTC-10835-MS.

Herring, Joseph C. 1975. Oil Recovery As Viewed From U.S. Patents. Presented at the SPE Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting, Denver, 7-9 April,. SPE-5334-MS.

Khan, Rashid, Al-nakhli, Raja. 2012. An Overview of Emerging Technologies and Innovations for Tight Gas Reservoir Development. Presented at the SPE International Production and Operations Conference & Exhibition, Doha, Qatar, 14-16 May. SPE-155442-MS.

Sajewycz, M. 2007. The Tension Between Patents, Trade Secrets and the Flow of Information. Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology 46 (3). PETSOC-07-03-GE.