Protecting new technology

by Saulo Murari Calazans

September 29, 2010


There is a Japanese saying Ihal difficulties are like mountains: they only flatten out once you get past them. And it is exactly by overcoming the difficulties in producing oil from the pre-salt layers on a commercial scale that Brazil will consolidate a position as one of the world’s economic powerhouses in lhe 21st Century.

Some of the chaIlenges ahead are: lhe instability of lhe pré-salt layer, which increases lhe risk of collapsing well; and the slowness of drilling through the resistant carbon rock, where the oil is stored.

Despite the Brazilian industry’s unprecedented technological advances – resulting in a series of record production in deep waters – it is a fact that, in general, the lechnology employed in the post-salt layers are not enough to deliver satisfactory results in lhe pre-salt. AIthough the endeavor will not exactly be starting from scratch, there will be a fundamental need for more modern equipment in order to overcome the obstacles. And it is exactly this challenge that the industry is geared to meet.

lt is well-known that the sophisticated leveIs of technology will require major investments if they are to reach their goals – investments that are made with the degree of retum in mind.

When regarding the pre-salt – especially the Santos Basin – there is clearly a lack of infrastructure to made production in the region viable, such as: a specialized workforce; onshore support; supplies; storage; and transport, among others. This region differs from the Campos Basin, where there is already all the facilities necessary for local production. Activities in the Santos Basin will require new facilities capable of transferring upstream production.

This fact has been proven, for example, in the long-duration test in the Tupi field, which is being conducted at a location 300 km offshore, with a helicopter travei time of two hours to reach the site. There are still too few aircraft capable of making the direct flight at lhe disposal of Petrobras.

One possible solution for the question of distance that is being studied is reducing the number of professionals working on the platforms, by applying new technology for remote operations from an onshore command Center. Naturally, if such a solution were available were so simple, it would already be implemented at other sites. The fact is that it is not simpIe; it is not cheap; and neither is it feasible in the shortterm. Creating such a solution will require new investments in state-of-the-art technology will be needed in this area.

It is no small exaggeration to say that the expected private investment in new technology will probably reach an all-ti e high for the industry. Without these investments, the commercial production of the pre-salt area will not get off the drawing board. Keeping in mind the degree of difficuIty in overcoming these challenges, it is paramount that the financiaI return for the pIayers invoIved makes it worth the effort as an incentive for these companies to take on activities that are still considered high risk.

It is precisely in this scenario that the professionals in the areas of petroleum engineering, shipbuilding, geology, computer science and others, look to pioneer the most modern equipment, capable of meeting the challenge. The job market is a hot one: the main demand is for young talent that has initiative, a broad vision, and more importantly, the creativity to overcome the obstacles by presenting new feasible solutions for known problems.

Therefore, we arrive at the question: How to deal with new technology in order to guarantee merited financiaI return and while optimizing profits?

The most well-known path to financial return, after, naturally, profits gained from business itself, is by granting exclusive legal rights to the pioneers who create new technology capable of overcoming the challenges ahead. Therefore, we hope to see an impressive increase in the number of patent protection applications in the area of oil and gas exploration and production, as can be seen in any highly-competitive environment.

A patent, granted by the National lnstitute for Industrial Property (INPI), grants the creators who request patent Protection, a temporary exclusivity of 20 years to commercialize their invention.

Contrary to what many businessmen believe, the mere development of new technology and placing it in the market does not guarantee its inventor has the exclusive right to commercialize the product. It is paramount that specific measures be taken in order to ohtain a patent, if it is to be protected from the interests of outside parties fram using new technology without formal authorization.

Further regarding return on investment, a patent is also an asset, which may also serve as another source of income if conceded to third parties, or licensed via payment of royalties.

The contracts involving the licensing of new technology are even more abundant and commercially advantageous, as long as it is mutually beneficial: the licensor receives payment for their research and development; the licensee makes legal use of patented technology without having to invest their own resources in its development.

Last but not least, patents comprise a basis of technological information. Most enterprises require patents for their creations and the access to this archive is public, available by simpIe internet consultation. These documents supply valuable information for research and development of new products and processes, as well as permit the follow-up of competitors’ activities.

It is for no small reason that the most respected companies around the world in all industrial segments have made use of the patent system – and this is particularly relevant in this time when there is a high demand for new technology.

ln Brazil, the number of new patent applications has increases gradually, as observed in the statistical database of Inpi ( 

In sum, innovating without protection may mean money lost. 


Saulo Murari Calazans

Advogado, Agente da Propriedade Industrial

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