University of Missouri Statement Regarding Intellectual Property Trial Verdict
Story Contact: Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430
COLUMBIA, Mo. — A Boone County jury returned a verdict today in favor of the university in its efforts to protect its intellectual property rights. The lawsuit, brought by the university against former MU engineering professor Galen Suppes, claimed the university was damaged when Suppes breached the provisions of his employment contract and university rules by altering forms used to assign to the university inventions made by him; that he purported to license technology owned by the university that he had no authority to license; and that he interfered with university research sponsors and potential licensees of the technology. After six days of evidence, the jury returned a verdict today in favor of the university, finding that Suppes’ conduct damaged the university in the amount of $300,000 by his breach of contract and $300,000 by his breach of his duty of loyalty. The jury also found that the University’s collected rules require assignment of inventions to the university.
The lawsuit, brought in 2009, is one of several disputes between Suppes, the university and its employees. In six separate lawsuits, Suppes unsuccessfully brought claims against the University and 10 university employees. Suppes also unsuccessfully brought internal university grievances in which a faculty panel either dismissed the claims or found them to have no merit.
The University Patent Committee has met on four occasions to assess ownership of approximately two dozen inventions involving Suppes and has never ruled in Suppes’ favor. He was also the subject of two faculty irresponsibility charges, including one which resulted in Suppes being physically removed from his department suite for a year and prohibited contact between Suppes and other department faculty. Recently, following a unanimous recommendation by a 12-member faculty panel, Suppes was fired by MU over charges that included intimidating and harassing students, fellow faculty and department chairs; neglect of duties; and intentional violation of university rules.
The university will continue to protect its intellectual rights, as well as those of the faculty and taxpayers. Protecting and commercializing the intellectual property created by university researchers is pivotal to the growth and strength of our research and economic development programs.--30--
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