Particle physicist Dr. David Townsend and electrical engineer Dr. Ronald Nutt developed the combined PET/CT scanner which changed the prospect of cancer diagnosis, saving countless lives in the eight years since it became a reality. In 2000, one year ahead of the scanner reaching the market, Time Magazine had already hailed the innovation as its Medical Invention of the Year.
The University of Pittsburgh, where Townsend worked for over a decade, went on a legal offensive against the inventors in early 2004 trying to claim part ownership in the combined PET/CT scanner which was by then selling for $1.5-$2 million each.
This case is a cautionary tale for all academic inventors because it came with no warning. A decade of documents filed in accordance with Pitt's Intellectual Property Policies had been received with no comment, perhaps even forgotten until big money was on the line.
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