Authors: Frank Tosto, Evan Nuttall
Technological advancements are a key economic driver in the energy sector, particularly in the Alberta oil sands. Underlying the commercialization and use of such advancements are patents, trade secrets, and other intellectual property assets that can provide a competitive advantage in the energy sector. Appropriate planning and processes help maximize the advantage and minimize the risks associated with developing, protecting, licencing, enforcing, and otherwise leveraging intellectual property in the energy sector. This article includes a brief description of patents and trade secrets under Canadian intellectual property law. The article also includes a review of issues related to protecting patents and trade secrets, both in terms of developing the assets themselves and in terms of ensuring clarity of ownership with respect to employment and other contractual relationships between inventors and owners, as well as assignees, particularly within the context of joint ventures. Finally, the article provides a review of current Canadian law relevant to the enforcement of patents, with a focus on issues likely to arise in the litigation of patents for technology and trade secrets used in the oil and gas industry.