The Israel Institute of Technology, the Technion, which functions as a public research university in the region, has filed a lawsuit against professor Eli Ben-Sasson, a senior lecturer at the Technion’s Faculty of Computer Science, for allegedly using the institution’s intellectual property to establish his blockchain startup, reports local news source, Calcalist on April 22, 2019.
Technion Draws the Battle Line
Per sources close to the matter, the Technion has dragged one of its long-serving faculty members, professor Eli Ben Sasson, to court, alleging that the lecturer has unlawfully used the intellectual property of the institution to enrich himself.
Specifically, the school alleges that the lecturer made use of the works and intellectual properties he developed while at Tthe Technion, to establish his firm called Starcower.
The professor founded Starcower Industries in collaboration with a doctoral student at the Technion, in a bid to develop blockchain-based commercial products and services with the entire knowledge, intellectual materials, and other resources gathered from years of research at the university.
The Technion has reportedly declared that since the intellectual property used in establishing Starcower was developed with the grants received at the Technion, Ben-Sasson must give up 50 percent of his share in Starcower Industries to the institution.
According to the lawsuit, “Starcower Industries is a company that develops private solutions and encryption based on an idea that the Technion claims are for its development. Ben-Sasson illegally used the Technion’s resources, including grants given to him by the institution to develop the idea.”
Starcower is reportedly focused on developing zero-knowledge proof solutions that would boost blockchain adoption globally.
Ben-Sasson Pleads Not Guilty
The Technion claims that its intellectual property regulation stipulates that any of its employees interested in making use of the ideas, scientific knowledge and other resources of the institution for commercial purposes, that individual or entity must first seek approval from the university before starting the project.
Profits generated from the new venture would also need to be shared in equal part between the company and the Technion.
However, the Technion claims Ben-Sasson failed to observe the necessary protocol, and instead secretly established Starcower in 2017 before officially retiring from the institute in 2018.
In a response letter sent to the Technion by Ben Sasson’s attorney, Galai Sharir, the defendant argued that Starcower Industries did not make use of the Technion’s intellectual property, as it has raised “millions of dollars and has employed professionals to create the software and intellectual property it needs.”
The attorney also declared that though Ben-Sasson is not guilty of all the allegations leveled against him by the Technion, Ben-Sasson and the Company are willing to give the institution a certain share of ownership in Starcower Industries, as a sign of respect to the Technion.