Legal Updates

Intellectual Property Law –Disclosure of Documents – Whether Documents had to be Disclosed by the Entire Group of Companies - Patent Dispute – Lack of Inventive Step – Invalidity - Obviousness<;

The case of Schlumberger Holdings Ltd v Electromagnetic Geoservices ASA [2007] involved issues relating to the disclosure and inspection of documents. The claimant in this case was the holding company of a large group of companies. The group of companies amounted to the world's largest oilfield services corporation and operated in about 80 countries.

The defendant made application for and filed three patents. The patents related to specialist controlled sonar electromagnetic surveying equipment. The equipment could be used when detecting subterranean oil reservoirs.

It was widely expected that such equipment would become an integral part of the future of surveying. It was further expected that over a number of years the revenue generated from such equipment would reach around $1 billion annually.

Prior to the defendant's patents, the claimant in this case had expressed no interest in researching the technologies developed by the defendant. When the defendant's patents were brought to the claimant's attention, it sought to have them declared invalid. The claimant argued that the patents lacked an inventive step.

The defendant applied for the disclosure of documents from the claimant and its group on which it was relying to argue that the patents were obvious. The claimant disclosed a single document. After the document was disclosed, the claimant contended that it had no obligation to supply documents of relevance held by companies within the group. Instead it claimed that the duty to disclose was limited to documents that were, or had been, in its control.

The application in this case was allowed.

It was held that on the evidence, the relevant documents had been within the control of the claimant. The court stated that the claimant could be considered to have the general consent of the companies within its group. Therefore such documents would be of relevance to the parties in the case.

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© RT COOPERS, 2008. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

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