Energy Giants Spar Over Name

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – After raising nearly $2 billion to drill natural gas wells in Ohio via his American Energy Partners firm, former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon said he will not let coal magnate Robert Murray monopolize the term “American Energy” in eastern Ohio.

Murray, founder and CEO of St. Clairsville-based Murray Energy Corp., in August sued McClendon in U.S. District Court in Ohio for “misappropriation and infringement” of the American Energy Corp. trade name, which is a Murray subsidiary that operates the Century Mine near Beallsville. Murray claims McClendon is violating the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Ohio Common Law of Unfair Competition.

McClendon says in a legal filing that he does not believe Murray should have the exclusive right to the “American Energy” name – and has filed a countersuit against Murray in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma. McClendon also is trying to transfer the Ohio case to Oklahoma.

Murray’s complaint “does not demonstrate that plaintiff has ever used ‘American Energy’ as a trademark,” McClendon’s countersuit claims. “All of the conduct related to the alleged infringement occurred at (McClendon’s) headquarters in Oklahoma City. That is where the defendants make and direct all business and marketing decisions.”

McClendon recently started American Energy Partners, which, like Chesapeake, is based in Oklahoma City.

McClendon resigned as Chesapeake CEO April 1, but the company he founded in 1989 remains the most active natural gas and oil driller in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, while also maintaining some operations throughout eastern Ohio. Documents in the Belmont County Recorder’s Office show that McClendon’s American Energy Partners has some acreage in the county, while published reports indicate he may have roughly 80,000 acres under lease throughout the Utica Shale region.

This is not Murray’s first dispute with a natural gas company. In 2012, he clashed with Oxford Oil Co. after that driller initially got permission from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to drill wells through coal seams at the Century Mine. The ODNR eventually did not allow these wells to proceed after Murray objected for safety reasons.

Murray believes McClendon is “attempting to cause confusion in the marketplace and further his goal of eliminating the use of coal in America.” He alleges McClendon donated “at least $51.5 million to the Sierra Club and American Lung Association to eliminate the use of coal …”

Murray also alleges McClendon has a “nefarious reputation” in the Upper Ohio Valley.

“We will take all legal actions necessary to protect our goodwill and reputation from the damages caused by Mr. McClendon’s use of an identical tradename,” Murray added.