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USF files suit over research patent deal

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:03 AM

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TAMPA -

The researchers at the University of South Florida guard their breakthroughs fiercely and have filed a federal lawsuit against an Irish pharmaceutical company the university says owes it money over the use of a patented Alzheimer's disease treatment.

The university, which recently opened a center dedicated to Alzheimer's research, initially entered a lawsuit two years ago filed by the Alzheimer's Institute of America, a research foundation based in Kansas. The patent lawsuit alleged a handful of drug companies, including Elan Pharmaceuticals, were using drugs developed and patented by USF and the institute and not paying the required fees.

One case went to trial in Pennsylvania and a jury sided with USF, saying the university "held legal and equitable title" to one particular patent. With the verdict in and to avoid legal expenses and uncertainties of further litigation, Elan and the other drug companies entered into a settlement agreement with USF and the institute, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Tampa last week.

At issue are patents for a treatment called the Swedish mutation, a patent claimed by USF, the Alzheimer's Institute, Elan and other pharmaceutical researchers.

The settlement gives USF the contested patent, as two researchers who worked at the university were credited with developing that particular treatment, unless the university knowingly waived its ownership. That was an issue that arose during the trial. The researchers got the university to sign a waiver, according to an analysis of the case by Alzheimer's Research Forum, a website focusing on Alzheimer's issues.

But the scientists did not disclose their mutation work, the analysis said, so the judge ruled that USF retained the patent rights to the treatment.

Though Elan had signed the settlement, the Irish company has not complied with its part of the bargain, the lawsuit said, and has failed to pay the $175,000 fee it had promised to pay within a month of signing the agreement.

USF is seeking a judgment that Elan is in breach of the agreement and is asking for a court order forcing the company to pay the $175,000, with interest and attorney's fees.

Richard McCrea Jr., the Tampa attorney who filed the complaint last week, could not be reached for comment.

Dan Hunt, an Oklahoma attorney who negotiated the settlement in April and who was authorized to act on behalf of Elan, also could not be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Elan officials in Ireland were unsuccessful.

USF has long been developing treatments for Alzheimer's disease and last year opened the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute to research cures and care for patients with Alzheimer's.


kmorelli@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7760

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