Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Univ of Missouri sues ChemE prof over patent rights

AP notes: The University of Missouri system filed a lawsuit Monday [Jan. 26] in federal court in Kansas City against chemical engineering professor Galen Suppes. The university system claims Suppes won’t release the rights to more than 30 inventions and 11 potential patents it says were developed in his Columbia campus labs. The case is Curators of the University of Missouri v. Galen J. Suppes et al [WD Mo], before Judge Scott O. Wright. The defendants are Suppes, Sutterlin, Renewable Alternatives, LLC and Homeland Technologies, LLC. Plaintiff counsel are Joshua McCaig, Richard P. Stitt, Russell S. Jones , Jr. of Shughart Thomson & Kilroy, PC

Hmm, remember when Stanford released rights (pursuant to Bayh-Dole) to Madey, and Madey later sued Duke? And Duke lost.

The ChemE prof claims that the University of Missouri has a faulty process for deciding how to waive its legal rights to inventions deemed to lack the potential to make money. Remember Rutgers, San Filippo, and due process?

**Chronicle noted:

Mr. Suppes told the Associated Press that he and William H. ["Rusty"] Sutterlin [who received his doctorate at Columbia and worked there as a postdoctoral fellow] had formed a company [Renewable Alternatives] to commercialize their work on fuel cells and other fuel-related technologies because he thought the university had a poor track record in pursuing patents on professors’ research. He said university officials had shown no interest in his efforts until he “informed them that royalties had been paid.”

The Columbia Missourian has interesting quotes:

letter, Russell Jones Jr. to Suppes: "Your continued refusal to comply with the university's requests, its rules and the rulings of the university's Patent Committee has left (us) with no choice but to pursue its rights in court."

MU Provost Brian Foster: the "lawsuit is a last resort to assure that the University’s ownership of inventions made by University employees during their employment is protected. It is vitally important to secure for the people of the state of Missouri the full benefits of research done by the University of Missouri.”

Suppes: "The university has exercised incredible neglect in the handling of invention disclosures. The MU tech transfer program is totally broken and basically beyond repair."

Scott Uhlmann, director of intellectual property administration for MU, attributes that decline to a technology transfer funding boost at the start of the decade that led to significantly more patents — and a concurrent drop in requests for waivers.

Christopher Fender, acting director of MU's Office of Technology Management and Industrial Relations, said it's in MU's best interest to help researchers bring their science to the marketplace.

Suppes is the sole inventor of US published application 20050008904 (app. 10/889448 ) titled Regenerative fuel cell technology with first claim:

A power supply for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle consisting of a battery pack capable of providing a power output between 20 and 1000 kW, a fuel cell capable of providing a power output between 0.2 and 20 kW, a hydrogen fuel tank with a rated capacity rated in miles of travel at an average city fuel economy rating where the rated capacity in miles is equal to between 4.5 and 18 times the fuel cell maximum power rating in kW, and a control means that utilizes the power output of the battery pack to provide the high power needs of the vehicle and uses the fuel cell as a battery charger to charge the battery pack.

There is no mention of federal support.

Separately, Suppes has US Patent 6,574,971, titled Fatty-acid thermal storage devices, cycle, and chemicals. The first claim:

In a process for the production of phase change material (PCM) chemicals wherein a reactant is reacted in a reaction mixture to yield a PCM chemical, the improvement which comprises the steps of carrying out said reaction in a reactor generating a reactor output stream, cooling said reactor output stream generating a stream containing solid reactor product suspended in liquid reactor product, separating the solid product from the liquid product generating a concentrated solid product and a mostly liquid product, recirculating either the concentrated solid product or the mostly liquid product as a recirculated chemical, and reacting the recirculated chemical in a reversible reaction.

There is no mention of federal support.

See also Inventor Behind Lucrative Eye-Drop Product Now Champions Faculty Patent Rights Online
which mentions Renee L. Kaswan and IP Advocate, Stephen F. Badylak, and Petr Taborsky.

****Separately, recall the University of Missouri brought us the Merrill matter:

JOSEPH SAN FILIPPO, JR. vs. MICHAEL BONGIOVANNI. 961 F.2d 1125, 1139-40 (3d Cir. 1992)


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