WASHINGTON (CN) - A man who claims he was an inventor of a Nobel Prize-winning process called RNA interference cannot be named as a co-inventor of the process' patent, a federal judge ruled.
Plaintiff Mussa Ali says he "made a critical contribution" to five patents to a process called RNA interference, for which the two lead inventors won a Nobel Prize in 2006.
RNA interference (also called RNAi) is a process of inhibiting a specific gene's expression by introducing a ribonucleic acid molecule. It helps scientists research both cells and living organisms, and has applications in medicine and biotechnology
Dr. Andrew Fire of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Dr. Craig C. Mello of the University of Massachusetts shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discoveries about RNAi.
Mussa Ali says his contributions towards the discovery should be recognized, and that he asked both Carnegie and UMass to name him as a co-inventor. He sued both institutions in Oregon District Court in 2012, and the case was transferred to district court in Washington D.C.
Carnegie moved to dismiss the case because UMass could not be joined to it, and the case cannot continue "in equity and good conscience" without the other university.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras agreed with Carnegie.
"Due to UMass's ownership interest in the patents whose inventorship the plaintiff now challenges, the court finds that UMass is a required party that must be joined if feasible," the judge wrote.
"UMass and Carnegie are co-owners of the patents. UMass's ability to protect its interests in the patents could be impaired or impeded in its absence."
Further, Contreras found UMass could not be joined to the action because it is entitled to sovereign immunity, and said it would be "highly prejudicial" to make Carnegie pay attorney's fees to a case that could affect UMass financially.
In dismissing Ali's action, the judge noted that he may be able to bring breach of contract or ownership claims against UMass in state court.