When inventor Mark Holodniy first signed an agreement with Stanford University, its language stated he, the scientist "will assign" any future inventions to Stanford. But later Holodniy worked for Cetus, a small biotech company as a visiting scientist where he created new discoveries in their labs. While there he signed another contract to "hereby assign" future inventions not yet created at the time of the agreement - to the biotech company.
Although the scientist made Stanford aware of this matter, the university chose not to address this matter at the time. Now Stanford is suing Roche Molecular Systems, Inc., the acquiring corporation of Holodniy's work, for patent infringement.
Much of Stanford's argument is based on the 30-year-old Bayh-Dole Act that suggests research performed under this federally-funded program, is governed by federal law and supersedes even poorly written contracts. Which agreement wins will be more than a question of simply contract language and law.
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Read the Supreme Court Transcripts and D. Swenson Amicus Briefs, as well as other briefs from both sides of this dispute.