Former Student Inventor Can’t Cash In on Adviser’s Sale of Business

Written April 6, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on March 27, 2020, held that a former grad student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who helped discover a patented process that made his academic adviser $5 million wasn’t entitled to proceeds from the sale. Annous v. Blaschek, 7th Cir., No. 19-1852, 3/27/20.

While he was a graduate student, Annous discovered a process for isolating a strain of bacteria that produces increased butanol and acetone. He and his adviser Hans Blaschek were listed as inventors on the patent, though it was assigned solely to the university.

Blaschek eventually licensed the patent from the university for his business, which he sold for $5 million to Eastman Chemical Co. Annous sued Blaschek for a share of the proceeds from the sale of the business.

The Court held that Annous was only entitled to money the university made from licensing the patent.

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