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U of Missouri System files infringement lawsuit against former professor

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 6th, 2017

The University of Missouri (UM) System has begun presenting its case to a jury in a lawsuit against a former professor, who the school says appropriated a renewable technology that the university owns.

Attorney Russell Jones, representing the UM System, said in his opening statement that the case will center on technology developed by former MU chemical engineering professor Galen Suppes that converts glycerin to acetol, propylene glycol and antifreeze.

In 2005, Suppes licensed the technology to the Mid-America Research and Development Foundation through a start-up he created called Renewable Alternatives. UM argued that it owns the technology because the research was conducted on university property with university equipment.

In his opening statement, Jones said Suppes assigned exclusive rights to the technology to his own start-up rather than to the university as he was obligated to do, and then Renewable Alternatives licensed the technology to the foundation. Under that license agreement, Renewable Alternatives was paid a royalty fee of 33% of gross revenue from the sale of the product for the first two years, and then 20% in subsequent.

If the UM system policy had been followed, he said, a third of all revenue from the technology would have gone to the inventor, two-ninths goes to the inventor’s department, two-ninths to the inventor’s campus, and two-ninths to the UM System. “The system has worked very well for everyone with one exception — Dr. Suppes,” Jones said.

The UM system has sued Suppes before, in federal court in 2009, but that case was dismissed after the judge that ruled federal patent law didn’t apply. The system filed a second suit in the 13th Circuit Court the same day the federal suit was dismissed.

Suppes countersued in August 2009, saying the technology was funded through a separate company, not the university. Both lawsuits are being resolved in the same trial.

George Smith, Suppes’ defense attorney, argued that both UM and the start-up can own the technology simultaneously. “We say Renewable Alternatives and the university both own the property,” Smith said. “The university says they are the only owners.”

The trial is expected to end this week.

Source: The Columbia Missourian

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