Georgetown sues former employees over CIA-funded biosurveillance project
Georgetown filed a lawsuit yesterday in D.C. District Court against Dr. James M. Wilson and Mark G. Polyak over rights to a biosurveillance system that they developed with funding from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense while working at the University.
Wilson and Polyak left Georgetown in March and April of 2008, respectively. Since then, the University says it has been requesting that they transfer their patent rights to the system they created, Argus, with no luck. Now the University is suing to obtain rights to the program.
But what is Argus? According to testimony (PDF) Wilson gave to Congress in 2007, Argus is a program that monitors events related to health emergencies and alerts policymakers. It was created in response to the rise of diseases like avian flu and SARS.
In 2007, the Department of Defense funded the program with $5,200,281, according to a report that tracks federal grant money. The CIA gave $7,279,780 for research on Argus in 2008, according to 2008 version of the same report.
In the lawsuit, Georgetown argues that the University’s intellectual property policy means any work created while employed by Georgetown belongs to the University.
Congressional testimony Wilson gave in 2008 [PDF] might hint at what his and Polyak’s defense will be, if they decide to fight Georgetown’s lawsuit (emphasis added):
While at Georgetown University (we were housed at GU for convenience with little interaction with the rest of campus and no independent support from the University)
Wilson seems to be sayng the project didn’t have any help from Georgetown, besides the use of Georgetown facilities.
Check out the lawsuit Georgetown filed after the jump!