MU wins lawsuit against former professor for $600,000

2 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago Wednesday, September 06 2017 Sep 6, 2017 Wednesday, September 06, 2017 3:45:00 PM CDT September 06, 2017 in News
By: Daniel Litwin, KOMU 8 Reporter and Annie Hammock, KOMU 8 Interactive Director
loading

COLUMBIA - A jury ruled in favor of the University of Missouri Wednesday night in a lawsuit against a former professor.

Curators accused the professor of interfering with marketing of an innovative antifreeze product.

The university sought $3.7 million in damages, and the jury granted $600,000. The jury said former professor Galen Suppes violated the university's intellectual property rights.

Suppes was a chemical engineering professor of 16 years.

The university was signed on to an exclusive deal with Senergy Chemical to produce a type of propylene glycol made from soy diesel byproducts, a project that Suppes and his company, Renewable Alternatives, were involved in.

The lawsuit said Suppes:

  • Delayed the business relationship between UM, Missouri Soybeans and Senergy Chemical
  • Refused to recognize the University's rights to the product
  • Attempted to profit from the invention himself

Suppes' defense team countered by saying it was negligence and incompetence on the part of the university and its business partners that eventually tanked the deal.

The university's lawyer, Russell Jones, said Suppes ignored his employment contract to sell the product on his own.

"Good fences make good neighbors, and the fences here are the rules," Jones said.

Under University of Missouri rules and regulations, if a faculty member creates an invention in "the scope of his or her duties," the university will have complete ownership and control of the invention. However, when a manufacturer comes to the university with a production deal, the inventor gets one-third of the university's royalties.

Suppes filed a long list of patent applications on his own for the invention under Renewable Alternatives, claiming full intellectual property over the product.

Jones said, when Missouri Soybean approached Suppes over whether he had full rights over the product, he used Renewable Alternatives to assure Missouri Soybean that everything was compliant.

"He started Renewable Alternatives, he owned Renewable Alternatives, he signed the contract for Renewable Alternatives," Jones said.

The prosecution presented more than 50 instances of Suppes deleting or changing language on invention disclosure forms to prevent giving intellectual property rights of propylene glycol to the university.

Defense lawyer George Smith argued the damages the university was seeking against Suppes were much too high.

"It is absurd. It is outrageous," Smith said.

Smith said the university's claimed losses are only speculative, and that the prosecution never mentioned a monetary figure for the cost of production delays or lost patents. Though initial projections for the antifreeze placed production at over four million pounds, only 20 pounds were ever produced

"If there's any money to be given for failure, what's 80 cents times 20? $16," Smith said.

Another point of contention was an abandoned patent that was key to the production of the antifreeze technology. Suppes failed to sign documents getting the patent off the ground, and the university claims he refused to sign despite its reaching out.

The jury was asked to agree with these points presented by the university's attorneys:

  • Suppes failed to execute the assignments requested by the university
  • Suppes filed a patent application without a written waiver from the university
  • Suppes used his company, Renewable Alternatives, to sell Missouri Soybean the new technology while claiming full ownership
  • Suppes was aware of and interfered with business relationships between Missouri Soybean and the university
  • Suppes acted in direct competition with his employer over rights of propylene glycol technology, and therefore breached his duty of loyalty
  • Contract obligations were not performed
  • The university was damaged

[Editor's note: We have edited this story with a verdict.]

More News

Grid
List
BOONE COUNTY - One person is dead and three more are injured after a two vehicle crash on I-70. ... More >>
1 hour ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 5:53:00 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Planned Parenthood is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate an appeals court order that slowed... More >>
1 hour ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 5:47:01 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Gov. Eric Greitens will begin his first trade mission Saturday when he and First Lady Sheena... More >>
2 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 5:20:15 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - Jefferson City Public Schools Superintendent Larry Linthacum released a letter addressing the three students who posted a picture... More >>
3 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 4:05:00 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Orthopaedic Institute is now offering a free sports clinic called Friday Night Lights. Sports physicians... More >>
4 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 3:15:00 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA (AP) — A county clerk in central Missouri has determined that Attorney General Josh Hawley lawfully voted in a... More >>
4 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 2:59:39 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Twenty-four clinics across the state were selected to receive a federal grant to fund programs that treat... More >>
4 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 2:50:00 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
HOUSTON, Mo. (AP) — A man and two women are charged in the killing of 17-year-old whose burned remains were... More >>
6 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 1:22:00 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
COLUMBIA - The UM System hired a large public relations firm to help "craft its message and avoid perception crisis,"... More >>
6 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 1:21:00 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The property owner of a former homeless camp site is suing a southwest Missouri city and a... More >>
6 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 1:17:30 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is testing a new service that lets a delivery person walk into your home when... More >>
6 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 12:35:16 PM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis County outlet mall is being targeted by protesters one week after a judge... More >>
7 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 11:48:00 AM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
ST. JOSEPH (AP) — St. Joseph police are investigating the death of a 77-year-old woman as a homicide and her... More >>
8 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 11:08:00 AM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A second man has been charged with killing one man and wounding two others at a... More >>
8 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 10:44:53 AM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Gov. Eric Greitens has appointed two new members to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. ... More >>
9 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 10:25:18 AM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
COLE COUNTY – A boil water advisory is affecting around 1,000 customers in the small town of Wardsville. The... More >>
9 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 10:10:00 AM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
CAMDEN COUNTY - A Camden County deputy looking for a runaway teenager said he encountered a man who at one... More >>
9 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 9:50:00 AM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Hundreds of mostly white protesters gathered Thursday in downtown St. Louis and marched, chanting "white silence... More >>
10 hours ago Friday, September 22 2017 Sep 22, 2017 Friday, September 22, 2017 9:18:00 AM CDT September 22, 2017 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 85°
8pm 82°
9pm 79°
10pm 77°
11pm 76°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

7:00p
America's Got Talent
9:00p
Dateline NBC
10:00p
KOMU 8 News @ 10
7:00p
Masters of Illusion
7:30p
Masters of Illusion
8:00p
Penn & Teller: Fool Us

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
America's Got Talent
9:00p
Dateline NBC
7:00p
Masters of Illusion
7:30p
Masters of Illusion
8:00p
Penn & Teller: Fool Us
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld