University Sues Prof in Patent Dispute

     JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) – The University of Missouri claims a chemical engineering professor and a post-doctoral fellow cheated it of its rights to patents the men sought, and in some cases received, while they worked for the university. The university sued professor Galen Suppes, postdoc William Sutterlin, and the companies they founded, Renewable Alternative and Homeland Technologies.

     The UM says it hired Suppes as an associate professor of chemical engineering in August 2001. It hired Sutterlin as a teaching assistant in August 1998 and as a postdoctoral fellow in June 2004.
     “From about August 1, 2001 to the present, Suppes has invented several inventions within the scope of his duties and services to the University. These inventions are the property of the University,” according to the federal complaint. “But rather than disclose and assign those inventions as required, Suppes has on approximately 31 occasions submitted invention disclosure forms that were altered, usually by deleting or substantially modifying the specific assignment language contained in the forms such that Suppes did not in fact assign any meaningful rights to the University. On these occasions Suppes submitted the forms without bringing his alterations to anyone’s attention.
     “Suppes has on other occasions denied that such inventions were within the scope of his duties and services, usually by asserting that they were conceived and reduced to practice without use of University facilities or resources or while Suppes was not working for the University.
     “Since about September 5, 2001, Suppes and/or Sutterlin have filed multiple patent applications, including provisional, non-provisional and foreign applications, without disclosing those applications to the University, without acknowledging the University’s ownership, and without permitting the University to oversee the prosecution of the patent applications to protect its property rights. As a result of defendants’ actions, various patent applications have been abandoned, denied, and/or licensed to third parties without any knowledge on the part of the University. The University is presently aware of two (2) patent applications that are the subject of office actions by the Patent Office, to which Suppes has indicated that he does not intend to respond, but about which Suppes has refused to execute documents necessary for the University to respond and protect its rights.”
     The complaint adds: “Defendants breached their agreements to vest ownership in all such intellectual property in the University, failed to comply with University rules, and defendant Suppes refused to follow the rulings of the University’s Patent Committee. The University seeks in addition an injunction requiring defendants to provide a listing of all such inventions, patents and patent applications and an accounting of all monies received by any of the defendants arising out of any such inventions, patents and applications (all information that has been requested of Suppes in a faculty grievance proceeding and otherwise, but which he has refused to provide); an injunction requiring Suppes to execute documents sufficient to perfect the University’s ownership in such patents and applications so that the University can protect its rights; and compensation for the damage defendants’ conduct has caused to the University.”
     The university is represented by Russell Jones Jr. with Shugart Thomson & Kilroy of Kansas City.

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