Counsel to Rutgers Foundation Calls Former Student's Streptomycin Claim Baseless
The suit of a former graduate student at Rutgers University claiming to be the codiscoverer of streptomycin, wonder-working drug, is "utterly without merit," it was said yesterday by Russell Watson, counsel for the Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation.
Watson said that the foundation, named defendant in a suit filed earlier in the day in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court, will "vigorously" defend the legal action. He said that the patent in question has been owned "from the beginning" by the foundation which he described as a non-profit corporation affiliated with the university.
The plaintiff is Albert Schatz of 210 Riverdale avenue, Brooklyn, now an assistant professor in the biology department at Brooklyn College.
Schatz, 30, is demanding an accounting of royalties received from the manufacture and sale of the anti-biotic. In addition, he wants Dr. Selman A. Waksrnan of Rutgers, also named a defendant, to be restrained from representing himself as sole discoverer of the drug.
The complaint, filed by Jerome C. Eisenberg, Newark attorney, states that while Schatz was a student under Waksman in the Rutgers department of soil microbiology in 1943, he conducted experiments arid research "in continuation of prior work done by him (Schatz)" which eventually led to isolation and discovery of streptomycin.Schatz said that his research and experimentation were checked and confirmed by Waksman and that thereafter the two "collaborated in further development of the said drug, eventually proving its great value in the treatment of diseases."
The complaint noted that Schatz and Waksman made joint application in the U. S. Patent Office in February, 1945, for patents on streptomycin. In May, 1946, it alleged, Wakaman persuaded Schatz to join in assigning the patent application .o the Rutgers foundation.
"Fear of Power"
The complaint stated that Schatz received no consideration for executing the assignment and that he did so in reliance on Dr. Waksman's representations and in fear that Dr. Waksman "by virtue of his power, position and influence had the means to prevent the plaintiff from securing gainful employment in the scientific and professional field for which he was trained."
The complaint said that on September 21, 1948, the patent office granted patent No. 2,449,866, entitled "Streptomycin and Process of Preparation" to "Selman A. Waksman and Albert Schatz, assignors to Rutgers Research and Endowment Foundation."
Besides demanding a financial accounting and a restraint on Waksman's claim as sole discoverer, the suit asked that all assignments made by Schatz to the foundation be set aside and that the defendants be directed to pay Schatz "such sum or sums as the court shall find to be due him."
The complaint charged that the defendants have issued licenses to manufacture and sell streptomycin and that they have received and will continue to receive "large sums of money by way of royalties."
It also stated that Dr. Waksrnan, "by representing himself as sole discoverer has reaped rewards, both monetary and professional, to his sole benefit and to the damage and injury of the plaintiff."
The complaint said that Schatz has demanded payment of half of all proceeds received by the defendants "in exploiting the discovery" of the drug but that such payment has been refused.
During the period of research referred to in the complaint, Schatz, who had received his baccalaureate degree from Rutgers in 1942, was working for a doctor's degree which he was awarded In 1945. Waksman, who now holds the title of director of the Rutgers Institute of Microbiology, was at that time professor of soil microbiology and head of the department.
The complaint said that at that time a "very close personal relationship" existed between Waksman and Schatz.
"The plaintiff," it stated, "'relied upon the defendant Waksman's advice in all matters touching upon the plaintiff's welfare and reposed implicit confidence and trust in the said defendant with the full knowledge of the said defendant."
"To Prevent Profit"
Schatz signed the patent application, the complaint said, in reliance on Waksman's representation that the "sole purpose in applying" was to "prevent anyone from gaining a monopoly in the manufacture of streptomycin and to prevent anyone, by such monopoly, from controlling the price and sale thereof and from profiting thereon."
The complaint stated that when Waksman asked Schatz to join in signing the patent assignment to the Rutgers foundation 15 months later, Schatz at first refused to sign "without independent advice."
At that, the complaint alleged, Waksman represented to Schatz that "by virtue of the said defendant's power, position and influence in the field of microbioloev and the world of science as contrasted with the plaintiff's youth and inexperience the said defendant would see to it that the plaintiff would fail to gain employment in the scientific and professional field" and that "no reputable institution" would employ him.
The complaint alleged further that Waksman told Schatz that if he refused to sign, Waksman would have Schatz's name withdrawn from the application, that "there would be no patent at all" and that it was "essential for the welfare of both defendant and plaintiff and in the interest of the public that the assignment be executed."
Schatz, "being then in need of employment and having no business experience of any kind," signed, the complaint said.