Oil groups urge Supreme Court to overturn Unocal patent

The American Petroleum Institute, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, and the Western States Petroleum Association Wednesday urged the US Supreme Court to review a lower court decision upholding a Unocal Corp. patent. The lower court ruling upheld the validity the patent, which covers the composition of reformulated gasolines.

Sep 13th, 2000


Washington, DC�The American Petroleum Institute, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, and the Western States Petroleum Association Wednesday urged the US Supreme Court to review a lower court decision upholding a Unocal Corp. patent.

The lower court ruling upheld the validity the patent, which covers the composition of reformulated gasolines (RFG). Under the patent, many US refiners might have to pay Unocal a fee of up to 5.75 �/gal.

Although the case involved only California RFG, API said Unocal also owns four additional RFG patents that are dependent on the disputed patent.

The joint brief urges the Supreme Court to review the case because of its potential impact on consumers and the country's cleaner-burning gasoline programs.

API said, unless the lower court decision is overturned, fees paid to Unocal could exceed $100 million/year in California alone, and the patent also affects the cost of making cleaner-burning fuels nationwide.

"Unocal 'gamed' the patent system by participating in the California Air Resource Board and US Environmental Protection Agency processes to develop cleaner-burning RFG regulations while at the same time secretly filing a patent application, which later was amended to track regulatory requirements," API said. "Unocal used the patent system to put refiners in a regulatory-patent law trap, with a result that will cause harm to the public."

The brief observed that a recent Federal Trade Commission report and testimony before Congress indicated Unocal's patent contributed to US gasoline supply and pricing problems in early summer. Five of API's member companies filed a similar brief last month.

In October, the Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to accept the case.

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