Intellectual Property Disputes

Intellectual property has become increasingly important in the Information Age, as the increasing number of lawsuits attests. Members of the firm have experience in virtually all areas of intellectual property litigation, including the prosecution and defense of theft of trade secrets claims, patent litigation, copyright disputes, and claims arising out of non-compete and development agreements.


Trade secrets claims. Because they are supported by the energy, computer, biotech, and financial industries, Houston and Austin have become hotbeds for trade secret litigation. We have represented several oilfield service companies in claims that competitors stole the technology for cutting-edge tools. We have also brought suit on behalf of major independent exploration and production companies on claims of trade secret theft in conjunction with data room attendance, including the single largest oilfield theft of trade secret claim filed in Texas at the time. In that case, Tom Fulkerson represented EOG Resources in a $300-million lawsuit by TransAmerican Natural Gas Company in Hidalgo County, Texas, in which TransAmerican argued that EOG had leased 15,000 acres in northwest Webb County from former governor Dolph Briscoe solely because of information EOG saw in TransAmerican’s data room. Through discovery and work with the client, we were able to demonstrate that EOG relied on its own analysis, publicly available information and the results of wells it had drilled on adjacent lands, forcing the plaintiff to resolve the matter for less than one-thousandth of its stated claim. In 2001, Tom represented Gyrodata Inc. in a theft of trade secret claim relating to the development of its “gyro while drilling” technology, successfully protecting both the trade secret and Gyrodata’s preeminent position in the market. Most recently, we successfully respresented Total Separation Solutions, LLC, a pioneer in technologies for filtration, separation, evaporation and concentration of oil field fluids, in connection with claims for theft of trade secrets.


Patent litigation. We have repeatedly represented major oilfield supply companies in ongoing litigation concerning patent validity and infringement. Two cases form good examples of the type of patent litigation with which we have been involved. The firm successfully represented Gyrodata in its defense of a patent infringement suit brought by one of its principal competitors, Scientific Drilling Inc. SDI claimed that Gyrodata’s basic and GWD tools infringed upon a host of patents issued in the early 1980s. Tom Fulkerson was also hired by CaseTech International Inc. to defend it in connection with a claim by Weatherford International that its “Rotobow” casing centralizer infringed upon a Weatherford patent in the same field. Most recently, we represented our long-time client Gyrodata in the enforcement of its “drop memory” gyro patent.


Copyright litigation. As part of our representation of entertainment clients, we have defended cases in which the plaintiffs claimed that either lyrics or musical compositions were used in violation of federal copyright law.


Non-compete agreements. We routinely represent both employees and corporations in substantial non-compete disputes, including injunction actions arising out of the violation or perceived violation of non-compete agreements. These lawsuits have largely involved the financial services, oil and gas, or oilfield services industries. As a byproduct of this representation, we have also represented new employers charged with tortious interference with non-compete agreements.

Development disputes. Members of the oil and gas community take more care in the science of their development than the documentation of the rightful ownership of their discoveries. As a result, disputes often arise over the ownership of inventions from joint development projects, many times coupled with claims of breach of contract or fiduciary duty growing out of the development agreements. For example, we represented Western Well Tool Inc. in a claim by Halliburton that it was entitled to rescind a development contract and retrieve all $13 million expended in connection with the development of a revolutionary wellbore “tractor.” The case was dismissed after a proposed answer and counterclaim was circulated to Halliburton. In addition, we have represented parties in connection with other development agreements gone awry where one or both parties claims that the other caused the collective failure.