Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Dr. Renee Kaswan Settles Dispute with UGA Research Foundation, Prepares to Shift Focus to IP Advocate
settled litigation with the UGA Research Foundation ("UGARF") regarding a contract that UGARF entered with pharmaceutical company Allergan to market an ophthalmic formula including cyclosporine. The contract was negotiated without the involvement of Dr. Kaswan, after a deal had already been struck with Allergan to market the drug. For some reason, UGARF agreed to reduce the amount received for the drug, costing Dr. Kaswan, and the state of Georgia taxpayers, millions of dollars. Ultimately, UGA ended up suing Dr. Kaswan as part of the long dispute.
Dr. Kaswan has launched a non-profit, IPAdvocate, to help university researchers more freely translate inventions into publicly useful products. “I fought for 20 years to patent, license, and gain FDA approval for my invention – a treatment for chronic dry eye, which can cause blindness,” said Dr. Kaswan. “But once approval came, the lawyers attacked and turned what had been a cooperative relationship between university and inventor into a contentious legal battle that lasted seven years. That is not the way to inspire innovation.”
According to published reports, in late 2002, UGARF agreed in writing to assign Dr. Kaswan the patents for her dry-eye treatments. Contracts were being drafted when the FDA surprised everyone by approving Allergan’s Restasis for use on humans on Dec. 24, 2002. University officials immediately reneged on their promise and initiated a pitched legal battle against Kaswan and her company, KB Visions.
Litigators intercepted and stopped all direct communications between UGARF and Dr. Kaswan. They initiated a series of bad faith claims against Dr. Kaswan and KB Visions, falsely alleging that she was acting against their instructions and outside of the terms of the licensing agreement. They announced intent to retract her patent license agreement, and suspended royalty payments to Dr. Kaswan from January 2003 through July 2005, and September 2008 until the recent settlement.
UGA President Michael Adams secretly and falsely instructed the university’s Board of Regents and IP Faculty Oversight Committee that Dr. Kaswan had elected litigation and forfeited her rights under UGA's non-legal dispute resolution procedures. This move by President Adams forced Dr. Kaswan to defend her IP equity rights in court, where Adams had the ability to exhaust her finances. “This litigation was a smokescreen to conceal the secret dealings with Allergan, which resulted in the loss of $220 million to the university and to the taxpayers of Georgia,” said Dr. Kaswan.
Dr. Kaswan eventually filed a countersuit against UGARF and Allergan, claiming, among other things, that Allergan tortiously interfered with her employment contract and fiduciary relationship with UGA, and that UGARF and Allergan fraudulently conspired to convey her property for an unreasonably low price. After seven years of litigation, Dr. Kaswan settled and received her inventors' share of royalties minus the legal fees UGARF deducted for suing her.
About IP Advocate
IP Advocate (www.IPAdvocate.org) is a non-profit organization that educates and empowers faculty researchers on patent rights and the process of commercialization – helping inventors protect their rights during the complex process of moving their inventions from the lab to the public marketplace. IP Advocate is a robust resource of information and best practices related to the commercialization of intellectual property. IP Advocate was founded by Dr. Renee Kaswan, inventor of Restasis® and a former research professor at the University of Georgia; and is led by executive director Rhaz Zeisler, an internationally recognized interactive media brand strategist, and former Walt Disney producer and IBM creative executive. IP Advocate is a 501(c)(3) organization, based in Atlanta.