SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) recently filed a lawsuit against Genia Technologies, alleging theft and “misappropriation” of intellectual property by Roger Chen, the company's co-founder and former UCSC student.
In the court filings, several nanopore scientists claim that Chen worked as a graduate student at Mark Akeson's laboratory at UCSC, where the defendant's work allegedly resulted in patented technology.
UCSC requires students to sign documents stating that the university will hold any patents on inventions made in campus labs with campus equipment. The university would then compensate the scientist who made the discovery.
Chen filed the correct patent applications with the university but then allegedly left the program to start Genia, according to a blog post by Keith Robison.
UCSC reportedly contacted Chen to obtain “patent-related documents,” but Chen allegedly failed to return communications. Meanwhile, Chen and Genia Technologies allegedly filed similar patents to the ones that Chen had begun to file at the university. Due to the conflict, the university did not complete the patent paperwork on various Chen inventions.
The university filed a lawsuit against Chen and Genia Technologies in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, requesting ownership of the patents filed by Chen and Genia Technologies that were initiated at the university lab. The university is also seeking Chen to declare that the true inventors behind the patented technology are him and his UCSC colleagues.
Additionally, UCSC requests that all profits Genia has made off the patented products be given to the university Chen’s and that business partner not be credited for any of the inventions.
The evidence against Chen is strong as his signature is on all of the patent documents that were in the filing process during his time at UCSC, and many of Genia’s inventions have similarities with innovations he was involved with at the university.
Genia Technologies is “nanopore-based sequencing company dedicated to making genetic testing easy and affordable,” according to the company's website. Nanopore sequencing is used for DNA sequencing, particularly when determining the order of nucleotides.
Genia says that the application of its technologies will aid in the “diagnosis of cancers and infectious diseases, non-invasive prenatal testing, matching the right drug to the right patient (PGx) and identification of genetic diseases.”
The company was founded in March 2009, a year after Chen graduated from UCSC. Genia Technologies was acquired by Roche, a Swiss healthcare company, on June 2, 2014 for $125 million.