National Oilwell Varco v. Auto-Dril, No. 21-40648 (5th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Varco, L.P. (“Varco”), an oil and gas drilling company, purchased the assets of another drilling company, including U.S. Patent No. 5,474,142 (the “’142 Patent”). Varco’s parent company, Varco International, Inc., and a competitor, National Oilwell, Inc., completed a merger to form National Oilwell Varco, Inc. It was understood that Varco, as Varco International, Inc.’s operating company, would transfer its assets to the newly formed entity’s operating company: Plaintiff-Appellee/Cross-Appellant National Oilwell Varco, L.P. (“NOV”). NOV filed an action in district court alleging that Defendant-Appellant/CrossAppellee Auto-Dril, Inc. (“Auto-Dril”) infringed the ’142 Patent (the “Underlying Action”). Auto-Dril and NOV entered into a confidential settlement agreement that was intended to end their litigation over the ’142 Patent (the “Settlement Agreement”). The parties appealed various holdings that both preceded and followed a trial regarding their 2011 Settlement Agreement.
The Fifth Circuit held that it lacks jurisdiction over Auto-Dril’s counterclaim for being fraudulently induced into entering the Settlement Agreement. The court reversed the ruling granting summary judgment for NOV on Auto-Dril’s claim for breach of the Settlement Agreement. The court reversed the dismissal of NOV’s claim for breach of the Settlement Agreement and remanded NOV’s JMOL motion for reconsideration. The court explained that here, NOV’s conduct did not rise to the level of a fraud on the court. Specifically, there is no clear and convincing evidence that NOV was cognizant that it did not own the ’142 Patent while it was litigating the Underlying Action.