Victory for plaintiff in patent lawsuit against Kent State

Conner Howard

A lawsuit against Kent State was settled by the Federal District Court of Appeals Jan. 23 in favor of the plaintiff.

Dr. Olusegun Falana, a researcher hired by Kent Displays, Inc. in 1998 to develop chemical compounds for use in liquid crystal display devices, initiated a lawsuit against the university, Kent Displays and the leading members of his research team when he was not attributed correctly in the patent that was published as a result of his research.

After being hired by Alexander Seed, associate professor of chemistry, Falana contributed substantial progress in Seed’s project to synthesize liquid crystal chemical compounds. Falana was reportedly instrumental in the combination of previously created compounds into a more ideal final product.

His work eventually allowed the team to publish a patent on the new compound in 2000. All research team members, including Falana, were originally intended to be recorded as the benefactors of the patent.

According to an official court case brief, the patent of the chemical compound designated “‘789” was issued without Falana’s name included. When Falana asked Kenneth Doane, Kent Displays’ chief science officer who oversaw the project, why he wasn’t attributed on the patent, Falana reportedly did not receive a satisfactory answer and proceeded to file his lawsuit against Kent State, Kent Displays and his former research team.

In June 2008, Doane and Seed signed statements conceding Falana’s correction to the patent. Faced with minimal objection from the defendants, Falana’s lawsuit proceeded to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, where the case was decided in Falana’s favor.

The ‘789 patent will be corrected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to include Falana as a named inventor, by order of the District Court.

“The District Court will order the United States Patent and Trademark Office to issue a Certificate of Correction adding Dr. Falana as a named inventor,” said Emily Vincent, media services representative for Kent State, in a statement. “Ownership of the patent will remain with Kent State University since Dr. Falana was employed by the university at the time of the invention and was subject to university policies.”

Associate Counsel Jim Watson of the Kent State General Counsel declined to provide additional comment on the lawsuit’s resolution.

Akron attorney Bruce Wilson, who represented Falana in the case, could not be reached for comment.

Contact Conner Howard at [email protected].