17/04/2008 - 15:25

UWA loses IP battle against Gray, Sirtex

17/04/2008 - 15:25

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The University of Western Australia has lost a Federal Court battle over the ownership of intellectual property held by its former employee Dr Bruce Gray and the company he founded, Sirtex Medical Ltd.

UWA loses IP battle against Gray, Sirtex

The University of Western Australia has lost a Federal Court battle over the ownership of intellectual property held by its former employee Dr Bruce Gray and the company he founded, Sirtex Medical Ltd.

Following a lengthy 50-day trial held early last year, Federal Court Justice Robert French found the legal foundation of UWA's case did not exist and for that reason its claims against Dr Gray and Sirtex were dismissed.

The university said it was considering an appeal.

UWA had claimed that it had rightful ownership of a cancer treatment technology - currently being commercialised by Sirtex - which it alleges was developed by Dr Gray during his employment with the university.

At stake was Dr Gray's majority shareholding in Sirtex which Dr Gray's lawyer, Martin Bennett from Lavan Legal, said is worth some $90 million.

"Dr Gray, a pre-eminent cancer surgeon and researcher in the world, had his shareholding in Sirtex, some $90 million worth of shares frozen for the length of the trial," Mr Bennett said after the judgment hearing.

"The judgement today vindicates his position, the university's claim has been dismissed, and there is no foundation for the university to assert that Dr Gray's world-breaking inventions were the property of the university."

Mr Bennett added that he will assess the judgement to determine whether Dr Gray is able to make a claim for damages over the period of the trial, which forced him to stop practicing in cancer research.

The trial also triggered an acrimonious boardroom brawl at Sirtex, which saw Dr Gray step down from his role as chairman and a potential cross-claim launched by Sirtex against Dr Gray had UWA won the case.

"The judgement sends a clear message as I see it, that the university's belief that it can protect its intellectual property through regulation is inappropriate, the only effective way of doing it is by individual employment contracts," Mr Bennet said.

Justice French ordered UWA to pay the legal costs of Dr Gray and Sirtex, which Mr Bennet said have run into the millions.

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Robson said the university initiated the action following independent legal advice in order to protect its intellectual property and to uphold its regulations on ownership of patents developed by its staff.

"The University's course of action was a matter of principle that had important ramifications for the protection of intellectual property and the flow-on benefits of university-initiated research to the broader community," Professor Robson said.

Professor Robson said the judgment was complex and required detailed consideration before further comment could be made.

UWA has 21 days to appeal.

 

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