Search the Site
join our mailing list
News Analysis: Filing Will Ignite Complex Litigation Costing Millions, With Uncertain Rewards
By Robert Cook-Deegan
The Abramson Institute and University of Pennsylvania are suing a
former faculty research star, who went on to become president at Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the most conspicuous and prestigious
jobs in cancer research.
The dispute appears to be entirely about money, since the complaint does
not ask for an injunction, which is usually the sought-after tool in conflicts
over intellectual property.
It seems likely that many funding streams were involved. It also seems likely
that many pieces of paper (invention disclosures, employment agreements, funding
agreements, and collaborative agreements) with funding partners, within the
university and institute and with the company.
Litigating this will be extremely complex, as the outcome is likely to turn
on who did what with whose money when, and who told whom about what when.
That is, the facts and precise language of various contractual arrangements
will be differently interpreted by the plaintiffs and defendants.
Sometimes academic institutions do win intellectual property cases, such as
when Johns Hopkins joined Baxter against CellPro. Even when they do win, the
process is painful and highly public. The victors in that case, including the chief
inventor, Curt Civin, still have painful memories of it.
Also, academic institutions lose some cases.
Academic research institutions have come up empty-handed after expensive
and protracted litigation in UC v Lilly, Rochester v Searle, Madey v Duke, Stanford
v Roche, and Ariad v Lilly.
Robert Cook-Deegan is the director of the Center for Genome Ethics, Law & Policy
at the Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and Sanford School of Public Policy
at Duke University.