The agreement follows a settlement of Transocean's February 2007 patent infringement suit against Noble in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas, Houston division. In the lawsuit, Transocean alleged that a recent upgrade to the Noble Clyde Boudreaux infringed claims of the Transocean patents. Transocean also alleged that the Noble Clyde Boudreaux contract with Shell and expected operations in the Gulf of Mexico would infringe the patents as well.
As part of the settlement with Noble, Transocean granted Noble a worldwide and non-exclusive license for utilizing the dual activity drilling technology on the Noble Clyde Boudreaux. Transocean agreed to license the rig for the life of the dual activity patents for an undisclosed royalty, but Noble may terminate the agreement after the initial two year term of the Shell contract if Noble removes the patented dual activity capability from the rig. The agreement does not cover additional rigs, but Noble has agreed not to challenge Transocean's dual activity patents in the future.
Transocean developed its dual activity drilling design in 1996 as part of a project to more efficiently construct wells in deepwater through the use of two complete drilling systems, allowing for parallel drilling operations to be conducted on a single well that saves operators both time and money, compared with conventional rigs. Transocean continues to pursue new ways of saving its customers time and money in the drilling of deepwater exploration and development wells with the patented design.
Transocean has patented the structure and methods of operations associated with its dual activity invention in the United States (U.S. Patent Nos. 6,085,851; 6,047,781; 6,056,071; and 6,068,069) and in other parts of the world where many dual activity rigs may be built or used.
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