dual activity drillship derrick

The view looking up into a dual activity drillship derrick, image (c) Rob Almeida/gCaptain

(Bloomberg) — Transocean Ltd., the world’s largest offshore rig contractor, won an appeals court ruling that reinstates a $15 million jury verdict against shipping company A.P. Moeller Maersk A/S over a way to drill wells.

A trial judge was wrong to throw out the jury verdict, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in a decision posted on its website yesterday. “Transocean presented substantial evidence” to back the jury’s April 2011 decision upholding the patents, the appeals court said.

The dispute, first filed in 2007, is over Transocean’s dual-activity technology, which lets a single derrick on a rig perform parallel drilling operations to save time and money. Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean had claimed three patents were infringed by a rig Maersk was building for use by Norway’s Statoil ASA in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Maersk was aware of Transocean’s patents and its drillships embodying the patents while Maersk designed its accused rig,” the three-judge appellate panel ruled. “The evidence also shows that Maersk decided to incorporate the claimed dual-activity feature anyway because it believed Transocean’s patents were invalid.”

The case has bounced between the trial court and the Federal Circuit for years. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston in 2009 said the patents were invalid, only to have the appeals court revive the case a year later.

“We welcome this news and continue to stand by our patented dual-activity technology,” said Guy Cantwell, a spokesman for Transocean.

Transocean settled similar claims against Pride International Inc. and Noble Corp. over the patents.

Officials with Copenhagen-based Maersk didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. v. Maersk Drilling USA Inc., 2011-1555, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. v. Maersk Contractors USA Inc., 07-cv-02392, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Houston).

- Victoria Slind-Flor, Copyright 2012 Bloomberg.
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