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For more than a decade, two Midwestern research universities happily collected patent royalties after partnering in medical research. Now, their lawyers sit at opposing tables in a federal courthouse in Delaware, treating each other in something less than a collegial manner.
Washington University in St. Louis is challenging the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which handles licensing for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, citing "shabby treatment" by its former partner. It's seeking more than $38 million of the royalties the foundation gets from the sale of an AbbVie kidney disease drug.
It's rare for universities to sue one another, especially when those institutions joined in a patent-licensing deal with a corporation. But the value of patents, coupled with tightening revenue streams, is inspiring more schools to fight for a greater share of royalties. In another case in the same courthouse, Cornell University is accusing a business partner of defrauding it in a settlement of a suit over patent royalties.