A former executive of Statoil Gulf Services and his wife agreed to a temporary restraining order that prevents the pair from filing any patent applications that use trade secrets from Statoil. They also agreed not to claim ownership of inventions, discoveries or technological improvements developed by Statoil, a unit of the Norwegian oil major, according to the order signed last week by U.S. District Court Judge Alfred H. Bennett of Houston.
Matthew Dawson and his wife, Jin Dawson, were sued by Statoil earlier this year for allegedly stealing trade secrets and patented technology. Statoil claims it owns the ideas that were created while Matthew Dawson was chief technology officer for a spin-off the company created to commercialize advances in hydraulic fracturing technology.
Statoil alleges that Matthew Dawson kept secret a breakthrough he made while working for Statoil, passed it on to his wife to patent and later launched his own company to commercialize it. Both Dawsons hold doctorates in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Stephen Fox, a Dallas employment lawyer who is representing the Dawsons, said that Statoil’s lawsuit leaves out key facts concerning Matthew Dawson’s employment relationship.
“And, while we hate to be hailed into Court, we’re prepared to tell our compelling story and confident that, at the end of the day, Mr. and Mrs. Dawson will be vindicated,” Fox noted in an email.
The Dawsons agreed to the interim order because it does nothing more than preserve the status quo, said Fox. It doesn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing, he added.
A hearing on the restraining order is scheduled for June, according to court documents. The Dawsons have not yet filed a response to Statoil’s lawsuit.
Statoil said it would not comment beyond its court filings.
Statoil Gulf Services, the U.S. subsidiary of Statoil, is an oil and gas exploration and production company and is one of the largest lease holders in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Matthew Dawson joined Statoil in 2012 as a principal researcher in hydrocarbons, the molecules that make up oil and natural gas.
During his time there, Dawson applied for several patents including ways to produce oil and gas through high-pressure water injection and measure the effect of fracturing on adjacent rocks for more efficient well placement, according to the lawsuit. Dawson assigned his patents to Statoil.
Dawson also developed technology to map underground rock formations and the pressure changes in adjacent wells. The techniques, which take account of natural pressure changes as high-pressure liquids are injected into subterranean rock, save drilling companies money because they don’t have to drill as many wells, according to his patent applications.
His patents formed the basis for a trademarked product, “IMAGE Frac,” which would be sold to improve hydraulic fracturing operations. The new company, called Reveal Energy Services, was spun off by Statoil, according to court documents. Dawson became Reveal’s chief technology officer in April.
Statoil claimed in the lawsuit that Dawson, while working for Statoil and its subsidiaries, also developed proppant mapping technology, which uses surface pressure gauges to determine where to inject tiny particulates into the rock that prop open fissures for more efficient production. Typically proppants used in the oil and gas industry are ceramic particles or sand.
Statoil said in court papers that it believes Dawson passed on the technology to his wife, who then filed for a patent. Jin Dawson works as a technical patent advisor for a law firm in Houston that is not connected to the case, according to her LinkedIn profile and court documents.
Statoil alleges breach of contract against Matthew Dawson and misappropriation of trade secrets against both Dawsons.
Since leaving Reveal, Matthew Dawson launched his own venture, Axiom Genesis. Statoil accuses Dawson of meeting with Reveal’s customers – current and potential – to generate business, according to the lawsuit.