Bunker Fuel Patents "Broad Enough to Cause Problems"

Monday September 16, 2019

The potential impact of bunker fuel patents has been raised once again, with Steve Simms, Principal, Simms Showers LLPwarning that suppliers do need to be mindful of them.

A number of companies, including energy majors Exxon and Shell, currently hold patents on marine fuel recipes.

“They went to the trouble to do this for some reason and they are broad enough to cause problems,” Simms told delegates at ICBC, without naming specific companies.

One factor that could limit how enforceable such patents are is the timing of when they were filed.

“This is reminiscent of the Unical patent on gasoil on the west coast of California. Because it was being developed prior to the actual regulation coming onboard, it was litigated in a class action lawsuit and thrown out,” noted Mel Larson, Principal Consultant, at KBC Advanced Technologies.

“So if a patent was being developed prior to [legislation] and not disclosed ... it can basically be thrown away.”

It is unclear how many of the current patents would fall foul of such a timing issue.

In addition, enforceability of the Patents would also very likely be restricted to within the US, delegates were told.