Schlumberger fights to boost patent damages at U.S. Supreme Court

lumBy Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared divided over whether to make it easier for companies to recoup profits lost due to the unauthorized use of their patented technology overseas in a dispute involving Schlumberger NV , the world’s largest oilfield services provider.

The nine justices heard about an hour of arguments that will resolve the amount of money that rival ION Geophysical Corp must pay for infringing Schlumberger technology that helps search for oil and gas beneath the ocean floor. Both companies are based in Houston.

Some justices, including conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, expressed concerns about applying U.S. patent laws abroad, while others indicated that Schlumberger should be fully compensated.

Schlumberger is appealing a lower court ruling that barred it from recovering $93.4 million in lost profits stemming from foreign contracts the company said it missed out on as a result of the infringement.

Schlumberger said federal patent law protects against infringement that occurs when components of a patented invention are supplied from the United States for assembly abroad, and so it should be fully compensated for its lost foreign sales.

Gorsuch and Breyer expressed skepticism about imposing damages based on the use of the technology by ION’s overseas customers. Breyer said if other countries did the same it could pose problems for U.S. companies as well…

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