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Shell in the US courts again for alleged theft of trade secrets

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 19.31.34 John  Donovan

A notice is prominently displayed on my website royaldutchshellplc.com warning against disclosing ideas to Royal Dutch Shell without taking every possible precaution. The websites creation a decade ago was prompted by Shell stealing ideas from me during the 1990’s.

Shell subsequently set up schemes – GameChanger and Ideas360 – to vacuum up ingenious ideas on an industrial scale. In other words, to get its hands on as many novel ideas as possible. 

Students have been enticed with promises of finance and even the chance to win prizes.

All very well if Shell can be trusted. Unfortunately that may not be the case as a number of parties have accused Shell of ripping off intellectual property disclosed to the company.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 17.47.17In this connection, I note that Shell is in the US courts again for alleged theft of trade secrets.

Although the inventor of the relevant innovative technologies was a Mr Michael Bloom, the rights were transferred in a series of transactions, which resulted in Newton Research Partners becoming the sole owner of the technologies and the plaintiff in the current litigation.

Reading between the lines in various legal documents, it seems that the allegations are that after the technology had been disclosed to a Shell company in the USA, the information was passed to Shell in the Netherlands in breach of confidentiality and Royal Dutch Shell subsequently exploited the technology without payment or credit to the company holding the rights.

Shell submitted to the US Patent Office a coach load of Shell related named individuals, including Shell employees, as claimed inventors of the relevant technology.

M. Betting; M.E.H. van Dongen; C.A. Tjeenk Willink; J. W. H. M van Veen; A.O.H.van Berlo; B. J. Breland; B.C. Bras; W. J.Elion; E. Geldof; P. P. Ghijsen; F. Hagg; H. W. M. Hoeijmakers; Mrs. T. Ikelaar; J. J. Janssen; G. T. de Kruiff; J. L. Nooijen; D.M. Page; P. Prast; P. H. J. Verbeek; R. S. Abma ; G. deKort; J. Hurst; D. J. Martin and R. J. Conser.

The name of Michael Bloom did not appear.

However, the name of  C.A. Tjeenk Willink may have special significance. The full name of the gentleman in question is Cornelis Antonie “Kees” Tjeenk Willink. As a Shell International employee, he became involved in the development of the technology, and subsequently was appointed as CEO of Twister B.V. (a company set up by Shell) which allegedly “incorporated Newtons trade secrets in Twister’s gas-separation products…” The inference seems to be that Twister was founded partly on trade secrets stolen from Bloom/Newton. The name of Tjeenk Willink is prominent in one legal document I have seen containing reference to email correspondence involving him. 

I would be interested in hearing from anyone with information about these matters. Confidentiality will be respected. I would like to hear from Ruud Abma in particular. 

NEWTON RESEARCH PARTNERS, LP v. SHELL EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, COMPANY; SHELL OIL COMPANY; SHELL TECHNOLOGY VENTURES, INC,; SHELL INTERNATIONAL EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION, INC.; AND TWISTER, BV, ACTION NO. 07-13697

The following are direct extracts from a court document filed with the District Court of Dallas County, Texas.

This action involves the theft of trade secrets and the breach of a confidential disclosure agreement. The technology at issue relates, inter alia, to nozzles, and nozzles in combination with centrifuges, used to separate contaminants from natural gas.

During the 1990’s, Michael Bloom (“Bloom”) developed a novel approach to the removal of various types of contaminants from natural gas. Such approach was comprised of multiple trade secrets, including, but not limited to, devices and methods concerning nozzles and concerning nozzles in combination with centrifuges or other devices, collectively referenced as the “Technologies.”

In or about May 1997, Mike Bloom disclosed the Technologies to Shell E&P Technology Company, which expressly represented in a Confidential Disclosure Agreement (“CDA”) that it was a Division of SEPCo.

The CDA was designed to protect Bloom’s confidential and proprietary trade secrets while simultaneously enabling SEPCo to assess the extent to which it desired to obtain rights in, develop, or market Bloom’s Technologies for commercial use.

SEPCo committed multiple material breaches of the CDA, including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Disclosing and using Bloom’s Technologies for purposes other than those enumerated in paragraph 15(a) of this Petition;
  2. Disclosing Bloom’s Technologies to Shell, STY, SIBP, and TaV;
  3. Failing to prevent Shell, STY, SIEP, and TBV from using Bloom’s Technologies, in whole or in part;
  4. Failing to prevent Shell from disclosing and using Bloom’s Technologies in various patents and patent applications;
  5. Failing to prevent former employees of SEPCo, Shell, STY, SIEP, and TBV (including, but not limited to, Charles Wallace, upon information and belief) from using Bloom’s Technologies, in whole or in part;
  6. Copying. and failing to return, all materials and Information that Bloom provided to SEPCo under the COA;
  7. Claiming ownership of Bloom’s Technologies; and
  8. Failing to prevent Shell, STY, SIEP, and TBV from claiming ownership of Bloom’s Technologies.

SEPCo’s material breaches of the CDA enabled the remaining Defendants to unlawfully use Bloom’s Technologies for commercial development of the Technologies. Moreover, Defendants have applied for and obtained patents using Bloom’s Technologies.

On or about November 20, 2007, Bloom and Newton entered into an agreement (“Bloom Agreement”) to confirm that Newton holds the entire right, title, and interest in the Technologies, including all rights under the CDA, In the Bloom Assignment, Bloom confirmed that “any and all property or rights of any nature whatsoever” regarding the Technologies, including all rights under the CDA, were previously assigned to Newton by operation of the various assignments and other agreements detailed herein, In addition, to the extent Bloom nevertheless held any right, title, or interest in the Technologies, Bloom assigned such right, title, and interest to Newton.

As a result, Newton holds all right, title, and interest in the Technologies, including all rights under the CDA, and therefore has the capacity and standing to assert the claims herein,

The causes of action asserted by Newton against Defendants are timely filed as Defendants fraudulently concealed the unlawful conduct alleged herein

Defendants had actual knowledge of the unlawful conduct alleged herein.

Defendants concealed the wrongful acts alleged herein by remaining silent about the misconduct despite having a duty to inform Newton of such unlawful acts. Defendants’ silence prevented Newton from discovering Defendants’ wrongful acts.

Defendants had a fixed purpose to conceal the unlawful conduct.

Newton reasonably relied on Defendants’ silence to the detriment of Newton.

SEPCo unlawfully misappropriated and disclosed the Technologies. The remaining Defendants misappropriated and disclosed the Technologies after acquiring such confidential and proprietary information through improper means or, alternatively, after acquiring such information from a third party’ with notice that the third party’s disclosure was improper.

Defendants have used, and continue to use, the Technologies for their own commercial advantage, to the serious detriment of Newton.

Newton asks the Court to award Newton its actual and consequential damages, prejudgment and post-judgment interest, and court costs. Newton additionally asks the Court to award Newton exemplary damages, as Defendants committed the acts described herein with the kind of intent, willfulness, wantonness, fraud, andlor malice for which the law allows imposition of exemplary damages.

Extracts from a second legal document

SEPCo provides the Technologies to Twister.

In violation of the CDA, SEPCo provided Bloom’s confidential trade secret information to an affiliate in the Netherlands. During discovery taken in the prior federal action, Larry Sather (“Sather”) testified that Horner Inlow (“Inlow”), a former Shell employee, revealed to him that SEPCo transferred its entire file concerning Bloom’s trade secrets to a Shell affiliate in the Netherlands.

Mr. Inlow said that the technology, if you will, had been transferred to Shell Royal Dutch Netherlands, and that I commented that that was an express violation of the secrecy and confidentiality agreement. And he also said that the file had left Shell’s headquarters and gone off premise, obviously to the Netherlands, but also that selected parties had a copy of the file, and that had been taken off premise.

According to Sather, Inlow also made a statement to the effect of, “Well, you’ll remember that they wanted to take it to the Netherlands, and it ended up there.” Id. at 617 (In.14-16). Sather further testified that the “file related to our centrifuge activity had been transferred to the Netherlands” and included “Whatever [Shell] had on file, from chromatograph results to drawings to process papers to white papers to whatever.”

Steven Canter (“Canter”), a SEPCo employee, testified that he discussed Bloom’s technologies with a European Shell affiliate:

Q: Well, had you had any discussions with anyone in the European operations about Mike Bloom’s technology?

A: I had had discussions with Andy Brechwoldt about the technology long before that, when he was in the U.S. At this point in August of ’98, he was – – he had been transferred to the European office. So strictly speaking, yes, there had been some communications with the European office prior to this August 21Sf date [referring to the email discussed below].

Subsequent to his discussions with Andy Brechwoldt (“Brechwoldt”), Canter sent an email to a number of individuals outside of SEPCo, including Cornelis Antonie “Kees” Tjeenk Willink (“Tjeenk Willink”) and Brechwoldt, concerning Bloom’s/Newton’s Technologies.  Tjeenk Willink responded to Canter asking “Even whilst you believe that the centrifuge is dead, could you give me some more technical details. .. So, what is the concept behind the lead you were following?” Canter responded to Tjeenk Willink’s inquiry with additional details concerning Bloom’s technologies. At the time of its incorporation, Tjeenk Willink was Twister’s CEO and as of 2008 was its Chief Operating Officer and Chief Tcehnology Officer. 

RELATED PUBLISHED SHELL INFORMATION

Twister – a revolution in gas separation

Twister – SEPARATING SHELL FROM THE COMPETITION

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