MU wins lawsuit against former professor for $600,000

8 months 1 week 6 days 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
COLUMBIA - An on-going rift between two east campus communities has come to a breaking point. Non-resident property owners want... More >>
21 minutes ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 7:29:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A Kansas City man who told authorities he was hearing "voices" when he wounded two... More >>
42 minutes ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 7:07:41 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - More than 670 motorcycles poured into the Phillips 66 gas station off I-70 as the "Run for the... More >>
1 hour ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 6:05:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A new fire station is in store for east Jefferson City, and the city council will review... More >>
2 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 5:10:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office announced late Monday that a special prosecutor has been selected in... More >>
2 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 5:00:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Checking the phone constantly, surfing Facebook first thing in the morning or right before bed, playing games like... More >>
3 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 3:58:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – The UM Board of Curators voted Monday to increase tuition by up to 2.1 percent for the 2018-2019... More >>
4 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 3:44:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – Students will leave class early on Tuesday as the 2017-2018 Academic Year comes to a close. The... More >>
4 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 3:28:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA -Utility workers began surveying land on Clark Lane for a sidewalk project designed to improve community safety. "The... More >>
6 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 1:40:00 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A House investigatory committee has expanded its membership for a special session to determine whether... More >>
7 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 12:00:47 PM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
ROLLA (AP) — A Missouri University of Science and Technology student has been sentenced to seven years in prison... More >>
8 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 11:40:00 AM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Ameren Missouri is planning a 400-megawatt wind farm in rural northeast Missouri, creating... More >>
9 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 10:44:00 AM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
POPLAR BLUFF (AP) — Authorities say a man's body was found in southeast Missouri and the case appears to... More >>
11 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 8:48:00 AM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – With a new terminal on the way, comes more possible changes to Columbia Regional Airport. A public... More >>
11 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 7:55:00 AM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA – The Columbia City Council will address an ordinance Monday on whether to approve of a special August election... More >>
17 hours ago Monday, May 21 2018 May 21, 2018 Monday, May 21, 2018 2:41:00 AM CDT May 21, 2018 in News
MARSHALL - A standoff between Marshall police and an armed man ended without injury. According to a news release,... More >>
21 hours ago Sunday, May 20 2018 May 20, 2018 Sunday, May 20, 2018 9:53:00 PM CDT May 20, 2018 in News
ROCHEPORT - The city of Rocheport honored two men on Sunday whose legacy has stretched across the state of Missouri.... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, May 20 2018 May 20, 2018 Sunday, May 20, 2018 7:09:00 PM CDT May 20, 2018 in News
AUXVASSE - Gov. Eric Greitens spoke at the 16th annual Fire Fighters Memorial Service on Sunday. The service was... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, May 20 2018 May 20, 2018 Sunday, May 20, 2018 4:05:00 PM CDT May 20, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 75°
8pm 73°
9pm 70°
10pm 69°
11pm 67°