Mixed News from Amoco on Landmark's Birthday (July 1997)

Landmark celebrates its fifteenth birthday this month and received a couple of ‘presents’ from Amoco in the form of a patent infringement suit and a major contract for the supply of software and services. The patent battle centers on the use of the Continuity Cube product.

Since November, when PDM revealed that Amoco were to "vigorously defend" their Coherency Cube Patent, Amoco have been engaged in discussions with Landmark Graphics Corporation (LGC) over the on-going use of LGC's competing Continuity Cube product. These have failed to produce an agreement and on the 7th July, Amoco served a patent infringement suit on LGC and CAEX Services Inc. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma over alleged infringement of US patent N 5,563,949. Amoco are seeking monetary damages and injunctive relief from the infringement to prevent Landmark and CAEX from distributing and using the Landmark Continuity Cube program, which is said to infringe on Amoco's coherency patent. Amoco state that CAEX is a wholly owned LGC subsidiary.

‘not owned or controlled’

Landmark disputes saying that CAEX Services, Inc., the Texas corporation that was served in the suit, is not owned or controlled by Landmark Graphics Corporation or Halliburton Company. In an astonishing near-simultaneous announcement Landmark announced that they had signed a $30 million contract with Amoco for a three and a half year contract to supply software, data management, support, training and professional consulting services to support Amoco's worldwide exploration and production business units. Speaking of the good news, Robert Peebler, Landmark's president and CEO said "Landmark have a long history of working together, and these agreements further enrich and expand our relationship. Amoco is a leader in using innovative technology as a business advantage, so their choice of Landmark's broad and integrated suite of applications and professional services is an excellent match for both companies". It is not clear whether the Amoco's "right hand" is acquiring the technology that its "left hand" is litigating against!

Powerful technique

The Amoco patent describes a method of computing the cross correlation of neighboring traces in a 3D seismic dataset. The resulting values are represented as maps and time slices showing local continuity. As described in last November's PDM, such techniques have proved very powerful in locating faults and other features which are not easily visible in the original data. Landmark's incriminated product, the Continuity Cube is part of the Poststack interpretative processing package. Poststack launches directly from SeisWorks and utilizes ProMAX algorithms. Landmark claim a high degree of integration with interpretation tools allowing poststack processing to be performed on the fly. Landmark describe their Continuity Cube tool as a measure of the local lateral similarity of seismic data, the technique is apparently very similar to the Amoco method in that trace data within a sliding time window is "crosscorrelated with data from 2, 4, or 8 adjacent traces".

‘contractual right’

Indeed Landmark do not claim that their technique differs from Amoco's, but dispute the merit of the suit on the grounds that Landmark has a contractual right to offer its Continuity Cube software pursuant to a 1991 agreement between Amoco and Advance Geophysical Corporation, which Landmark acquired in 1994. Landmark intends to "vigorously defend its contractual rights and ability to offer its Continuity Cube software to its customers".

Industry observers have suggested that neither of the "Cubes" is a radically new technique. Both use algorithms, which are fairly common currency in the processing house, correlation is after all the bread and butter of the seismic processor.

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