EX-UT teacher sued over invention
Strip to soothe mouth burns stolen, businessman says.
An Austin businessman is charging in a lawsuit that a former University of Texas assistant professor essentially stole his invention of a dissolvable strip intended to relieve mouth burns from hot food and liquids.
Robert W. McDonald III, who describes himself as a real estate developer and entrepreneur in the civil suit he filed Monday in U.S. District Court, says Jason T. McConville breached an agreement giving all rights, including patents, to McDonald and his company, known as 2010 MFI LLC.
The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages, patent rights and an order compelling McConville to issue a press release declaring that McDonald, not McConville, is the inventor of the “Dissolvable Strip for Treatment of Oral Thermal Burns.”
McConville, now an associate professor at the University of New Mexico, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
According to the suit, McDonald funded a senior project for a fourstudent design team in UT’s Department of Biomedical Engineering in the 2011-12 academic year. McDonald’s proposal called for the students to evaluate ingredients and develop prototypes.
“McConville used his position as a faculty sponsor of the project to wrongfully take from the design team confidential information” belonging to McDonald and his company, the suit says. McConville subsequently presented the research at a conference in October of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and identified himself as the lead researcher and inventor.
A news release issued by the association said the strip, which looks like a breath-freshening strip, delivers a local anesthetic, benzocaine, and a therapeutic polymer.
Lance Hansen, a student on the project, told the American-Statesman, “We created a prototype for the strip, nowhere near production-ready.”
The suit does not name UT as a defendant, and Patti Ohlendorf, the university’s vice president for legal affairs, said in a statement that it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on the case now.
“However,” Ohlendorf said, “the university does provide training every year to new faculty and administrators on a number of issues related to research and technology transfer. We also send all faculty a list of responsibilities as it relates to the proper conduct of research.”