Firm alleges oil companies infringed copyright on seismic data

Steve Bartlett
Published on January 21, 2012

A seismic data firm alleges an oil exploration partnership has capitalized on confidential geophysical data, and it is seeking almost $7 million in damages.

Geophysical Service Inc. (GSI) filed a statement of claim with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland Jan. 5.

In court documents, the Calgary-based company says Vulcan Minerals and Investcan Energy Corp. accessed some of its seismic data about Labrador's offshore through the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).

GSI describes it as the Offshore Labrador Material.

It charges its copyright on the information was infringed because the defendants - which formed a joint venture to explore off Labrador in 2008 - have copied, distributed and offered to sell the material.

It believes Calgary-based Vulcan and Investcan of St. John's have profited, or will profit, illegally.

"As a result of either or both of Vulcan's and Investcan's conversion of the Offshore Labrador Material, GSI has suffered and will suffer loss and damages," the statement of claims reads.

GSI, which sells its data to oil and gas companies, is asking for $6,887,508 in damages.

It also wants an injunction that prevents Vulcan and Investcan from using the data, as well as an order directing the companies to return all copies of the material.

Lawyers for all three parties declined comment.

The CNLOPB did not speak to the case either, as the matter is before the court.

According to the petroleum board's policies, non-exclusive seismic data, like GSI's, remains confidential for a decade. Companies are informed of that up front.

The data in question combined information collected by GSI's predecessor from 1970 to 1995 and data the company obtained between 2003 and 2008.

GSI says it became aware Vulcan and Investcan had accessed the materials through an access to information request to the CNLOPB in May 2010.

It also states it learned the defendants had obtained an exploration licence in 2008 to explore in the Hopedale Basin, which overlaps areas covered in the seismic data.

GSI says it notified Vulcan and Investcan in August 2010 that data is under registered copyright and remains confidential, regardless of its submission to the CNLOPB.

It demanded they cease using the information, which it wanted returned immediately.

"Neither Vulcan nor Investcan responded to the notice," the statement of claims says.

On Sept. 8, 2011, GSI says, it learned through a second access to information request that Vulcan had asked for and copied the materials without permission. Twitter: @bartlett_steve