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Dispute Overview

Before relocating to the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Townsend signed a consulting agreement with Dr. Nutt's Knoxville based company, CTI. This agreement gave CTI rights to Dr. Townsend's interest in any patent secured as a result of his collaboration with them.

In 1986, CTI formed a joint venture with Siemens called CTI PET Systems (CPS) in order to build a prototype of the PET/CT combined scanner. CPS applied for a patent in October of 2000, listing Drs. Townsend and Nutt as the inventors and themselves as the assignee. Even prior to the invention reaching the market, it was recognized by Time Magazine as its Medical Invention of the Year in 2000.

In May 2001, GE launched the first PET/CT scanner, called the Discovery PET/CT. Siemens followed in August of 2001 with the introduction of their Biograph system. When these manufacturers went to market with their devices, the Townsend/Nutt patent had yet to be approved. The patent was not accepted until 2002, well after the two companies were competing in the marketplace.

Today, GE, Siemens and Philips all market combined PET/CT scanners based on a similar concept, but with each machine differing somewhat in the actual technology. None of these companies relied on patent protection for their devices. It was the uniqueness of their systems that differentiated them in the marketplace, not the concept or method patents.

Pitt's Office of Technology Management wanted a share of the $1.5-$2 million dollar sales price of the combined scanner. In January of 2004, Pitt representatives, along with university attorneys, met with the two inventors.

The meeting ended with the inventors optimistic that a compromise had been reached, but the next day Pitt's attorneys filed a lawsuit against Townsend, Nutt and CPS charging them with conspiracy, fraud, conversion of property and other serious allegations.

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