COLUMBIA, Mo. — A former professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia has been ordered to pay the university system $600,000 in damages in an intellectual property lawsuit.
A jury decided Wednesday that Galen Suppes violated his contract with the University of Missouri System and had been working in competition against the system, the Columbia Missourian reported .
The system’s Board of Curators sued Suppes in 2009, alleging the former chemical engineering professor had filed for patents on inventions and assigned rights to outside entities without approval.
Suppes developed technology that converts glycerin to acetol, propylene glycol and antifreeze. He licensed the technology to the Mid-America Research and Development foundation in 2005 through Renewable Alternatives, a company he started in 2002.
The former professor breached his contract with the university by assigning the exclusive rights to the technology to his company rather than the university, said Russell Jones, an attorney for the University of Missouri System.
Defense attorney George Smith argued that both Renewable Alternatives and the university owned the technology. But Jones said Suppes altered forms by changing or deleting language that would grant the system right to his inventions.
Jones said it was those actions that cost the system time and money, in addition to harming relationships the university had with other companies. He argued the university lost $3.7 million because of Suppes’ actions.
“This was greedy and this was wrong,” Jones said.
Smith said there was no proof those actions cost the school money, because there are no records of employees working overtime or of the university hiring more employees to address the issues involving Suppes. Suppes was fired from the university in 2016.
“The university will continue to protect its intellectual rights, as well as those of the faculty and taxpayers,” the system said in a statement Wednesday. “Protecting and commercializing the intellectual property created by university researchers is pivotal to the growth and strength of our research and economic development programs.”
Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com