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Univ of Utah v. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Zur Forderung der Wissenschaften E.V.

The University of Utah (“UUtah”) brought this lawsuit to correct inventorship of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,056,704 and 7,078,196 (the “Tuschl Patents”). Originally, UUtah named as defendants the assignees (“Assignees”) of the Tuschl Patents: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Wissenschaften e.V., Max-Planck-Innovation GmbH, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc., (collectively, the “non-State Defendants”) and the University of Massachusetts (“UMass”). UMass argued that, because the dispute was between two States, the Supreme Court had exclusive original jurisdiction. In response, UUtah amended its complaint, substituting four UMass officials (the “Named Officials”) in place of UMass. The Named Officials then moved to dismiss the case, arguing that UUtah’s claims were barred by sovereign immunity and that UUtah had failed to join UMass, which they claimed was an indispensable party. The district court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed. This case requires us to examine the issues of sovereign immunity and federal jurisdiction that arise when state universities are involved on both sides of an inventorship dispute. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

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