Univ of Utah v. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung der Wissenschaften E.V., No. 12-1540 (Fed. Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Bass, a professor of biochemistry at UUtah, studies RNA interference (RNAi), a phenomenon in which RNA plays a role in silencing expression of individual genes. Her employment contract assigns all patent rights arising from her work to UUtah. Tuschl, a researcher employed by UMass, is also active in RNAi research. Bass claims that Tuschl’s patents disclosed and claimed her conception. UUtah believes that Bass is the sole or a joint inventor of the Tuschl patents. UUtah asked assignees of those patents to cooperate in petitioning the U.S Patent and Trademark Office to correct the inventorship by adding Bass as an inventor. Defendants declined and UUtah filed suit under 35 U.S.C. 256. UMass moved to dismiss, arguing that because UUtah and UMass were both arms of the state, the dispute fell within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. UUtah amended its complaint, replacing UMass with four UMass officials. The district court rejected jurisdictional, failure to join an indispensable party (UMass), and sovereign immunity arguments, reasoning that relief under section 256 is prospective in nature, not retroactive remedy and that correction of inventorship was not a core sovereign interest sufficient to make this a dispute between states. The Federal Circuit affirmed.