Andrew Myers and Harvard Sued by Former PhD Student

June 30th, 2013

ChemBark InvestigatesDr. Mark Charest, a chemistry PhD student who graduated from Harvard in 2004, is suing the university and Andrew Myers, his PhD advisor, over the royalties associated with a patent covering intellectual property developed during Charest’s graduate work.

In 2005, the Myers Lab published this paper in Science that described a new synthetic route to 6-deoxytetracycline antibiotics. Charest was the first author on the paper, and the work was patented by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (prior to submission for publication). A company, Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals, was started to commercialize the work by licensing the tetracycline patent from the university.

According to Charest’s complaint:

  • Harvard’s policy is to distribute royalties equally among all of the inventors on a patent unless the inventors agree to a different distribution.
  • Harvard OTD asked Charest and his former labmates to voluntarily accept a distribution of 50% to Myers, 15% to Charest, 15% to Dionicio Siegel, 15% to Christian Lerner, and 5% to Jason Brubaker (the five co-authors of the paper).
  • The four co-authors besides Myers agreed amongst themselves to a distribution of 18.75% to Charest, 11.25% to Siegel, 10% to Lerner, and 10% to Brubaker. Myers would not participate in this discussion and his 50% share was not open to discussion.
  • When Charest later spoke to Myers, Myers told Charest to “tread lightly”, “be careful”, and “think about [his] career”. Charest interpreted these statements as threats.
  • Charest initially refused to accept an unequal distribution of the royalties, and then engaged in a series of exchanges where Harvard’s representative threatened to directly cut Charest’s share of the royalties or to shift the distribution of licensing payments to a second patent on which Charest was not listed as an inventor. Fearful of this threat, Charest signed an agreement to accept 18.75% of the royalties for the first patent (presumably, the distribution arranged by the four postdocs/students).
  • The second patent never materialized, and Charest believes it was a ruse fabricated to force his hand to volunteer to let Myers get a 50% cut of the royalties.
  • Later, Charest describes a second act in which Harvard’s OTD did shift royalties away from Charest’s patent.
  • Myers refused to serve as a reference when Charest applied for a position at a venture capital firm, and Myers would not return phone calls when a potential employer directly contacted Myers regarding Charest.

Charest appealed to an internal review board at Harvard, but his case was unsuccessful. His lawsuit filed on Friday seeks reallocation of the royalties, punitive damages, and a bunch of other stuff that is outside my complete comprehension. Read the document for yourself.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out, but it would seem to be yet another cautionary tale that when you are a graduate student, you are in a position of incredible weakness. As is said, your advisor holds your paycheck in one hand and your letter of recommendation in the other. And in case you are naive, the chains don’t get unshackled just because you’ve graduated. You’re still going to need that letter of recommendation for future jobs, so if your old boss wants to take 50% of the royalties, what’s to stop him?

Nothing.

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Disclosure: I went to Harvard for my graduate work and regularly came into contact with Myers, Charest, and Brubaker, as my desk was right next to the Myers Lab. I know Mark Charest and had several conversations with him over the course of my graduate career. I think I saw him one or two times after he graduated, and I’ve had no interaction with him since I graduated from Harvard.

H/T to A.D. for tipping off ChemBark

Elsewhere: Universal Hub, Chemjobber (analysis of prof-student/postdoc fiduciary relationship), Chemistry Reddit, Chemical & Engineering News, In The Pipeline, The Harvard Crimson.


67 Responses to “Andrew Myers and Harvard Sued by Former PhD Student”

  1. Unstable Isotope Says:

    Fascinating case. Discovery phase should be interesting, if it ever comes to that.

  2. Paul Says:

    For background, here’s the C&EN story that goes with the original Science publication.

  3. eugene Says:

    Yes! Go venture capital boy! Get that fat-cat Harvard professor! May him pay and make him bleed…

  4. The Aqueous Layer Says:

    I’m thinking Charest will not be coming to any Meyer’s Group reunion parties. Wonder what type of working relationship they had during his graduate studies.

    It’s a challenging situation. Harvard’s going to circle the wagons pretty hard on this, so Charest has a tough battle ahead.

  5. Hap Says:

    The threat to place the royalties in another patent in which Charest is not listed as an inventor seems like an empty threat – if it had come to that, the patent could have been invalidated because it didn’t list all of the inventors, in which Myers’s company would be SOL.

    I wonder if the patents can be contested on the basis of inequitable conduct on Harvard’s part. Sauce for the goose…

  6. Lisa Balbes Says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that inventorship on a patent is determined differently from authorship on a scientific paper. The article seems to imply that the authors on the Science paper split the royalties. While the author list may be identical to the inventor list, that is not necessarily the case.

  7. Hap Says:

    From Carmen Drahl:

    Adviser has multiple projects and you have one. If you can’t out-think them find another line of work.

    Then, what is the advisor getting 50% for? The opportunity to test wits with him or her? The ability to get funds from the government? Wow, I can see why jobs as professors are so highly in demand.

    In the ideal, advisors provide ideas, and teaching, and a place where this can occur safely. At some point in whatever project you get, you ought to know more than your advisor (as in Derek Lowe’s Laws of the Lab), because the advisor’s knowledge is likely historical and theoretical in nature, while yours is practical, and probably more copious because of the time spent doing so. Being around people who have experience and having the tools to explore are alloyed into knowledge that wasn’t there before, and sometime useful things as well. However, if something comes of your work, inevitably the benefits will go disproportionately to your advisor. I guess we should be grateful – in a company, you might get a plaque and a bonus, but probably nothing else, while in academia, you might get a share of any profits.

    The uneven division of responsibility and blame also rests at the heart of all the safety arguments about Sangji’s death. When there are costs to be paid, grad students and postdocs and any other peons are expected to bear them. When by design or negligence, production and safety are placed at odds, they are expected to reconcile the irreconcilable and to pay for the inevitable response. When there are rewards to be had (or pay to be gotten), graduate students, postdocs, et al. are simply supping at the feet of the master, and can’t really take credit for the achievements that were made, or can’t expect to be paid like independent researchers, but students.

    I guess I can see why the US needs people from elsewhere to fill these positions.

  8. wolfie Says:

    To add some rest to Hap’s comment : This is a reason, why I have no graduate students at all, any more.

  9. SwissGuy Says:

    This is crazy for many reasons (besides the ones listed above):
    - the money that was used for the initial developement was most likely some sort of government- related funding. Why do the Royalties go to Myers (and his group) if they were not investing their own money? It’s taxpays money and that’s where the royalties should go. In industry an inventor won’t get (as big) a share of the royalties.
    - a patent can be invalidated if the wrong inventors are listed. Honorary authorship on a patent can make it invalid. Myers better have some good proof about his contributions to this! (Tetraphase’ competitors will be watching this case closely, they will get a lot of information which might help them to take down the patent from a court case)

  10. Hap Says:

    I think Bayh-Dole allows universities to patent inventions and licence them from government grants – all of the metathesis stuff from Grubbs goes through Materia through licensing from CalTech, for example. If it ends up as a drug, and it was funded on an NIH grant, NIH may have “march-in” rights, but I don’t think they’ve never been used.

    I could also see Myers’s rights to invention – it was probably his idea and implemented in his labs. I still wonder, though, if the described intimidation was present, would the conduct would affect Harvard’s ability to defend the patent? Threatening to exclude an inventor from a patent on which he had a role to gain royalty rights, if provable, would seem to be out-of-bounds.

  11. wolfie Says:

    When I was little, and got my PhD, the patent from my doctoral thesis was sold to BASF (ticker symbol : BAS). In the end, I earned 10.000 Deutsch Marks from this patent. Whoelse can claim this, please ??

  12. David Says:

    (a) this case would have no impact on the validity of Charest’s patent.
    (b) the case is all about false promises made by Harvard’s OTD. If they hadn’t created these policies, there would be no case. That is, if Harvard had left policy unspecified or had a policy that 100% of roylaties go to the PI on the grant that resulted in an invention, there would be no case
    (c) some people are viewing Charest as unkind because he is a VC. Personally, I think he is doing a great service to the community. He now has the financial resources to fight against the routine poor practices of university OTDs that rely on the ignorance and poverty of graduate students to extract unfair contracts in exchange for the pittance of a salary they provide.
    (d) I honestly feel many OTDs across the country are slowly destroying academic science. Frankly, I’ve found many companies I work for much more ready to provide materials to universities for research than the university where I did my graduate studies. Collaborations were actively destroyed by obstinance between the two university’s lawyers. From talking to people still at the university, the situation has only gotten worse.

  13. Hap Says:

    I thought that one of the attacks Lilly made on Ariad was that they had misbehaved in the conception of the patent (in their case, it was much more substantial – claiming that material information was present or correct when they knew otherwise). In this case, this misbehavior would be tangential to the substance of the patent, but if Harvard or Myers could be shown to have threatened to manipulate the inventor list to wheedle better financial terms, I wonder how credible they would remain in a patent defense. I don’t think it would matter in this case, but I don’t know if a deeper-pocketed opponent could use it to attack the patent.

  14. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    Agree that the conversation on intimidation of Charest is the most interesting aspect of the case, but I doubt it will play out in court. There should be a standard royalty distribution between PIs and student inventors, but I don’t think the royalty distribution in this case is unreasonable. Charest seems to have been well compensated.

    I’m surprised that the suit claims that the standard agreement at Harvard is that all inventors split royalties evenly at Harvard. Such an arrangement would be bizarrely skewed towards student inventors. I’ve never heard of this being the case at other places.

  15. David Says:

    @Special Guest Lecturer
    Not sure what universities you are discussing, but that is the standard at every university I’ve been involved with. Typically, if you want to deviate, you have to fill out reams of paperwork justifying an uneven split, while an even split is perfectly normal.
    That said, if the university spins off a company, they will frequently give the PI an advisory role and use that to justify giving them significant (founder-level) equity, which student inventors are frequently left out of, or given minor roles with employee-level equity.

  16. Paul Says:

    @SGL: I think making the distribution even keeps these things from getting messy. My boss in grad school was adamant about not fussing with the even split, and he was very generous in including students as inventors. There are plenty of places for PIs to make up the difference. When companies are founded, the PIs get a nice slice of the pie (as David points out), and if the technology is licensed by an existing company, the PI often gets a nice consulting gig out of it.

  17. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    I stand corrected on the even distribution – I checked the policies relevant to checks I’m receiving (beer money at best) and apparently my former advisors are raking in the same non-life changing sums.

    Generous, but still doesn’t make sense if all actors are behaving rationally. With an even split, a rational PI would not allow a graduate student to mentor an undergraduate or two while working on a project with possible commercial impact – cost of doing so would dilute IP royalties substantially. The reason that this probably doesn’t come up more often is that so few patents actually pay out to be worth worrying about (and one that does is more often cause for celebration rather than litigation)

    Within a hierarchical physical sciences academic laboratory, I still think that it would make more sense to assign a PI an invariant portion (not necessarily 50%) and divide the remainder among student inventors. I respect Myers wanting a bigger cut given that the work presumably builds on years of prior art in his laboratory, his ability to fund and manage the operation, his mentoring of the student inventors, in addition to his actual intellectual input into the discovery itself.

    However, I don’t respect the tactics that he allegedly used to secure that larger stake. The take-home message from the lawsuit might be “Don’t work for Andy Myers”

  18. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    One other thing of note – if there were 5 inventors, is Charest suing over the difference between 20% and 18.75% of the inventor portion of the royalties? It would seem that Siegel, Lerner, and Brubaker are the ones who really took a hit.

  19. eugene Says:

    Of course this is about more than just money. Probably the other guys don’t have the deep pockets and need the reference too much, to cross their professor. They are probably secretly cheering him on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not that secretly behind the scenes.

    I noticed this current in screwing authority in recent American culture. There was a ‘Family Guy’ episodes where they decide to rip off the insurance company by setting fire to a pharmacy that is losing business, but are caught by Joe the cop. Then the cop joins them because after thinking about it, he decides the insurance company are a bunch of jerks that are responsible for him being a paraplegic and they deserve it. Here he’s still playing by the rules by going through the courts, but it probably comes from the same current of diminishing returns from a PhD degree and huge student debts and unpaid internships that cripple you until 40. There is a gut feeling that the system is unfair and that it’s legitimate to screw it. Maybe I come from the wrong generation and if I examined the facts very closely I might turn out to be wrong, but when hearing about this case, I definitely have a gut feeling that Myers and Harvard deserve to be screwed.

  20. Mica Says:

    Guys, these “threats” and class solidarity against evil advisers aside, Andy is being quite generous and reasonable in his initial arrangement. He initiated the project (the most creative part of the process — “it is important to do it because…”), suggested first synthetic directions, hired and recruited people, coordinated the process between group members, and provided money for it. He deserves 50%.

    In contrast, Charest could have been substituted by other students, with similar results. The route is not that unique and molecules not that difficult, and I don’t see a claim of a unique contribution beyond “it’s a part of my thesis” (e.g., Charest came up with a unique step that solved difficult stereochemical problem in a general way and against adviser’s suggestions…). Note also that two other students/postdocs were damaged by Charest’s initial actions.

  21. Paul Says:

    While I’m a fan of the even split among inventors, I have no problem with giving the PI a higher cut of the royalties. But if you’re going to do it that way, you should decide on that arrangement at the outset (i.e., at group joining time). If the standing policy at Harvard is for an even split, I can see how a student would be upset if someone came in at the last second and cut his percentage.

    It will be interesting to see if there are e-mails or witnesses that provide evidence of the strong-arm tactics alleged in the complaint. The use of these methods, if true, would be shameful on the part of Harvard.

  22. jb Says:

    I’m actually surprised with this. Where I did my PhD, the university made us sign a form saying we’re selling the patent to them for 1 dollar. That’s one dollar divided by how many names are on the patent. So, I sold two patents for a quarter each.

  23. Untenured Prof Says:

    @SGL – I think there is a difference, in terms of whom one would include on a patent, if an undergraduate is essentially following the direct guidelines of a grad student/postdoc they would be considered a technician and can be excluded from patent authorship routinely. Personally I have three patents and haven’t seen a dime, but the postdoc from my patent was split evenly between myself, my boss and two other postdocs and was university policy.

  24. anon Says:

    It’s hard to feel too much sympathy for him. it’s the PI’s lab and he sets the rules. I mean, imagine if Myers had had the foresight to make his students sign such an agreement before ever starting work in his lab. Would a new student really throw down the gauntlet over his boss claiming a 50% share of future patent income? It seems like Charest started seeing dollar signs at some point in his career and completely lost his bearings.

    on a plus side, the outright greed of this lawsuit should be a stronger recommendation letter to any prospective VC employers than anything Myers could write. i’m sure they’d be glad to land a shark who would sue his old boss for 1.5%

  25. Mica Says:

    Paul, why would you be a fan of the even distribution? People contribute differently, thus… this policy is a default policy (which I think has a different meaning than standing policy), if the inventors themselves cannot agree. The university position is that (1) whatever inventors agree to; and (2) if they cannot agree then we will not waste time and we split evenly. So I am not sure how can someone agree in advance to something or anything at all, without having an actual invention and without being able to judge what are the individual contributions.

    Andy obviously used some sort of judgement (one guy got 5%, 3 guys 15% each), and that’s pretty much it. So, Andy thinks that he is splitting with each of the co-inventors 50/50 on the research he organized, which is perfectly reasonable and fair arrangement when you are the head of academic laboratory. I would say in most situations more than fair.

    Finally, I am not sure why would any of these be shameful to Harvard — they tried to handle an awkward situation the best they could — i.e., they tried to reason first, assuming they do not have a completely unreasonable person on the other side, then they forced the issue, when they assumed to have to deal with a completely unreasonable person. Same with Andy’s refusal to provide recommendation, it’s certainly more fair than to say full story — few would hire Charest upon hearing this story, even from his perspective.

  26. eugene Says:

    “Same with Andy’s refusal to provide recommendation, it’s certainly more fair than to say full story — few would hire Charest upon hearing this story, even from his perspective.”

    So you’re with them, huh? ‘Andy’ is your chum and you’re on first name basis, but the student is ‘Mr. Charest’ to you?

    Well, Myers better provide a recommendation on Mark’s synthetic skills and his ability as a chemist, because that’s Myers’ responsibility after having Mark work in his lab for 5 years. With Mr. Myers being so blinded as to refuse a simple reference for Mark regarding his skills as a chemist, I question his judgement in a capacity in deciding fairly on percentages.

  27. Mica Says:

    Eugene, solid synthetic chemists are dime a dozen, and any recommendation letter that would not say about personality is worthless. Science paper should be sufficient for that kind of reference. There are many people who had fall-outs with advisers, and everyone understands one such event (i.e., refusal to give/asking not to ask). Specific story like this one would be toxic (from my perspective at least).

    And, yes, Andy (as opposed to Al) is how we used to call him when I was a student and he was a young professor, so it stuck. I guess you were going somewhere with this argument? Also, who is “them”? And what have these “them” done to you? Seriously, real abuse, cruelty, and unreasonableness is so abundant in graduate school that we do not need to feel much solidarity in this specific case.

  28. Paul Says:

    @Mica: I favor the even split policy because it decreases the probability of spats like this one. You could say “how could they all contribute equally?”, but I can argue back “Why is Myers 50% and not 49% or 44%?” Figuring out these sorts of distributions is fraught with problems.

    What this case comes down to is that I expect people to follow their stated policies, whatever they are. If the inventors could all agree on a split, great. If they couldn’t, then it should’ve reverted to an equal split (the Harvard policy, apparently). Coercing a student (or several) into “voluntarily” accepting a smaller cut is not cool. If this is what happened here—but it remains to be proven—then Harvard should be ashamed of itself. It is not unreasonable for Charest to expect Harvard to uphold their OTD’s stated policy regarding royalties.

    If Harvard wants to change their policy to “let the PI decide how to split the royalties”, then they should just do that. The students probably wouldn’t care and the school would avoid situations like the one described above.

  29. anon Says:

    All shares of the profit are to be equal, but some shares are more equal than others.

    Paul has the right idea here. It’s not the precise split that’s problematic, so much as the way it was obtained.

  30. eugene Says:

    “I guess you were going somewhere with this argument?”

    Only that you’re biased and it shows through your use of language and names. But based on your reply, I guess you knew that, so it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the guy’s first name is. If you’re going to try to be impartial, calling him by his first name, and his antagonist by an impersonal last name is a clear sign of bias. In this case ‘one of them’ (even though that was a bit of a joke on my part) means someone who is predisposed to take Myers’ side of things 100% and it shows through their writing. It’s fine to have an opinion one way or the other on this, even if it’s not impartial, as long as there is disclosure.

  31. Untenured Prof Says:

    The biggest concern, of course unproven accusations have to temper everyone’s rhetoric a little, is that a PI would coerce anyone under his authority to do anything… threatening to withhold recommendation letters? That’s just petty. If this is accurate this would be the most disturbing aspect of the whole incident.

  32. Hap Says:

    If your advisor is willing to screw you when money is on the table, then how well do you think your interests will be considered in any other aspect of your education? If the claims are accurate, “not much” is probably the answer. It can be noted that this doesn’t jive with others’ experiences of him (Milkshake was impressed by Myers during his time at Harvard, a few years before this); on the other hand, Milkshake didn’t work for him, and that does change the nature of the relationship some.

    I think the general concern is when professors forget the teaching and care part of their jobs (unless the teaching was “Look out for Number 1, and don’t step in Number 2.”) and subvert their relationships with their students for financial gain. An equal split between inventors might not be unreasonable in the abstract, but threatening your students to assure your portion of the revenues is. It also highlights the gap between the alleged teaching that grad school is supposed to give (justifying the minimal wages, etc.) and the actual (students and others are independent contractors, treated as equals for legal convenience and as peons when it would cost money to treat them otherwise).

    @anon: I would assume the suing is more vengeance and less cash, because there might not be so much cash. Since Professor Myers wasn’t willing to recommend him, he probably concluded that his advisor placed no value on the relationship and thus had used and discarded him, and he objected to the treatment.

  33. Paul Says:

    This case also illustrates the point that for PIs to have power over their subordinates, they must be willing to help the students in some way. In grad school, graduation is the carrot (and the PIs are paying their students, too). For a graduated student, if the PI won’t write him a letter or answer calls from employers, there’s little stopping the student from burning a (useless) bridge.

    Reminds me of the “I’m just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose” scene in American Beauty (audio is NSFW):

  34. Hap Says:

    An UNequal split between inventors might not be unreasonable in the abstract, but threatening (COERCING) your students to assure your portion of the revenues WOULD BE. (caps modifications, not yelling)

    Ack.

  35. Hap Says:

    Also, while this is old (Emory says in their press release that the split was determined under university rules in place at the time of the discovery, implying that they have changed since then, probably to enzure Emory a larger share), it is a contrast:

    http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2005/07/25/the_check_shows_up_in_the_mail_really.php

  36. Mica Says:

    Eugene, you got me, I love the sound of “Andy”. And based on your use of “them” I can claim you are biased because you are homophobic/racist/islamophobic or whatever else. See how it works?

    You could not just assume that I had actually been sufficiently intrigued by Paul’s post to read the whole things. And yes, after reading Charest’s side of the story, assuming all is exactly as he said, I am 99% for Andy and three other students/postdocs (whatever they are and yes, they are nameless to me; and I leave 1% to be open-minded, and this can grow, if other students claim that Andy threatened them or that Andy had no real intellectual contributions).

    Paul – are you implying that someone else got “coerced” here? It is my impression that the 5% guy had a larger chunk on the next patent (contested by Charest). He is directly being screwed over by this lawsuit, yet, I have not seen much sympathy for him on this site.

    Finally, recommendation-letter wise — It seems to me that a very few of the commentators here had a situation in life in which one gets a perfect “technical” recommendation, e.g., describing a brilliant synthetic/bio/whatever chemist. The guy/gall comes, becomes completely destructive and toxic for the whole group with paranoid behavior, overgrown sense of importance and impact of his/her small comments and usually useless and minor ideas (trivial to everyone, but he /she insists these should be written down and signed by everyone else). Well, perhaps after one experience like that you would appreciate Andy’s refusal to pick up a phone a bit more and allow that this story might be painted from a slightly different perspective.

  37. eugene Says:

    “can claim you are biased because you are homophobic/racist/islamophobic or whatever else. See how it works?”

    No, not really. Unless the world of academia is stuffed with Muslim Chinese homosexuals, you don’t have much of an argument there and I have no idea of the point you were trying to make. That professors are an oppressed minority?

    “The guy/gall comes, becomes completely destructive and toxic for the whole group with paranoid behavior, overgrown sense of importance and impact of his/her small comments and usually useless and minor ideas (trivial to everyone, but he /she insists these should be written down and signed by everyone else).”

    Either you have inside information, or you get out. If you’re not directly using personal info to accuse the guy of this and are just projecting, then it’s a useless point and also a bit of a low blow. Character assassination via anonymous Internets comments some would call it. Maybe ‘Andy’ would actually appreciate you spilling the beans on the Internets so it can’t be traced back to him. I know I would appreciate reading scandal gossip over the weekend.

    Yes, we had someone who poisoned the atmosphere in my group but had enough good papers. The boss gave him a reference regardless so he got a postdoc (in which he spent a year), but the atmosphere improved a lot after he left.

  38. Mica Says:

    “… you don’t have much of an argument there and I have no idea of the point you were trying to make.”

    That your nonsensical analysis (I guess a poor man’s attempt to do psychobabble) was not a substitute for actually reading a complaint.

    “Either you have inside information, or you get out. If you’re not directly using personal info to accuse the guy of this and are just projecting…”

    Vow, you will surely get an excellent recommendation as a psychologist, if you, God forbid, fail as a chemist. So, to stress, and for those with inability to interpret simple text (i.e., those capable only of literal reading of unconnected sentences) — no personal information other than this complaint. Simply giving a typical example why it’s OK to avoid giving recommendation when a person is an excellent chemists and a horrible person. Pretty much direct response to yours:

    “Well, Myers better provide a recommendation on Mark’s synthetic skills and his ability as a chemist, because that’s Myers’ responsibility… ”

    So, Andy has a full right and a responsibility to avoid recommending someone if HE is convinced that that person will be destructive… As simple as that, and more honest than pushing that person onto the next guy … per your example, which you seem to put up as a positive way of dealing with various difficult people. Andy is the sole judge here (I know, sometimes unfortunate situation, but…).

    Anyway, nothing better than a small internet war. Have fun Eugene with all your anger against, to quote you, “Muslim Chinese homosexual” cabal that is ruining your life. You see how it works :). That said, this is turning into something beyond my initial intent, which was to give what I thought could be a reasonable explanation of Andy’s perspective, but these attempts do not work with lynch mobs. So, again, good bye and good luck!

  39. Paul Says:

    Paul – are you implying that someone else got “coerced” here? It is my impression that the 5% guy had a larger chunk on the next patent (contested by Charest). He is directly being screwed over by this lawsuit, yet, I have not seen much sympathy for him on this site.

    I don’t know how the other students feel about what happened, but I would love to know their thoughts when Myers/Harvard decided that Myers would get 50% of the royalties and that the issue was not up for discussion. I would argue that things that might appear voluntary (e.g., signing away royalty points without any form of compensation) might not be. Their analysis might have been (i) who cares? or (ii) I guess that is a fair distribution, but it might also have been (iii) I better do what Myers wants or I’ll be ruined. Maybe they were “treading lightly” and “thinking about their careers”?

    When you are a manager, you have to be very careful about what you ask your subordinates to do. Due to the delicateness of the advisor-grad student relationship, I think many grad students feel that they have no choice when their bosses come to them and ask for something. Even if these tasks have nothing to do with your responsibilities as a grad student and result in the loss of time or money, you feel as though you can’t say “no” because you worry about the repercussions.

  40. eugene Says:

    “Have fun Eugene with all your anger against, to quote you, “Muslim Chinese homosexual” cabal that is ruining your life.”

    You are being very foolish. I’m sorry, but that is the best I can say for you and your interpretation of text and others words on a computer screen. I don’t have any angst or personal stake in this affair, but was just interested in gossip. You cannot offer that, because as you say:

    “no personal information other than this complaint. Simply giving a typical example why it’s OK to avoid giving recommendation when a person is an excellent chemists and a horrible person.”

    I assumed that Charest was a good chemists based on his articles and patents, which is publicly available information. A former advisor should offer a good reference on the technical side of things if that is the truth and it seems so based on articles published. You are making up things about Charest’s character which you don’t know, based on the fact that you had positive interactions with Myers in the hallway. I read chemistry blogs to learn about important issues, employment stats, and gossip. You have engaged in unfounded character assassination and wasted space and my time. There is no lynch mob here. You are mostly just answering me and maybe a couple of other people so far. I advise you to stop with this innuendo against Charest, especially since you know nothing. This type of character trait in you might get you into trouble in the future. But you said that you’re not going to comment again, so problem solved.

  41. eugene Says:

    “Simply giving a typical example why it’s OK to avoid giving recommendation when a person is an excellent chemists and a horrible person.”

    Really, I didn’t read it like that after I read the previous paragraph:

    “Finally, recommendation-letter wise — It seems to me that a very few of the commentators here had a situation in life in which one gets a perfect “technical” recommendation, e.g., describing a brilliant synthetic/bio/whatever chemist. The guy/gall comes, becomes completely destructive and toxic for the whole group with paranoid behavior, overgrown sense of importance and impact of his/her small comments and usually useless and minor ideas (trivial to everyone, but he /she insists these should be written down and signed by everyone else). Well, perhaps after one experience like that you would appreciate Andy’s refusal to pick up a phone a bit more and allow that this story might be painted from a slightly different perspective.”

    Yes, that doesn’t sound like a ‘typical’ example. It sounded like you knew something specific. But you don’t.

  42. Paul Says:

    Carmen Drahl has written an article on the lawsuit for C&EN:

    http://cen.acs.org/articles/91/i27/Harvard-Chemistry-Graduate-Sues-University.html

    The story quotes this post.

  43. eugene Says:

    “The story quotes this post.”

    Crap. Now I’ll never get a job in chemistry in the USA. Oh well, not that it was a viable career path anyways. Venture capital though…

  44. Matt Says:

    “The story quotes this post”
    Paul, you got one more citation, duh..

  45. MoMo Says:

    Its the curse of the tetracyclines! This has happened before and will happen again! Just change the names and leave a few in. Greed has a way of clouding judgement and the thought of riches is the catalyst!

  46. Lyle Langley Says:

    @Paul…
    “@SGL: I think making the distribution even keeps these things from getting messy. My boss in grad school was adamant about not fussing with the even split, and he was very generous in including students as inventors.”

    Unfortunately, Paul, there is no “generous in including students as inventors”. If one is on a patent, it’s not because someone was “generous” it’s because someone contributed intellectually. Pretty cut and dried.

    If that is the case, then each of the patents might be invalid. One is either an inventor or they are not. This is not publications where you can include the summer intern that might have made a couple compounds they were told to make. Patents are for intellectual contributions, not technical contributions. The PI or other contributing scientists ultimately should have zero say in inventorship – that should come directly from the patent attorney after careful review of all materials. One can get themselves in trouble by the scientists deciding on inventorship. It’s a hard discussion, but it’s up to the attorney to determine these things.

  47. Paul Says:

    @Lyle: If one is on a patent, it’s not because someone was “generous” it’s because someone contributed intellectually. Pretty cut and dried.

    Please, Great One, tell me the cut-and-dried definition of what constitutes an intellectual contribution. You act as if it is obvious and there are never disputes about this kind of stuff. Don’t you think some contributions could generously/charitably be regarded as intellectual contributions, or be uncharitably dismissed as technical contributions?

    And while it would be great to have a third party come in an do a thorough review of these things, it was my experience that whoever was on the corresponding papers was on the patent. I did not make these calls, and they seemed to be made before lawyers were contacted, but maybe I’m wrong.

  48. notachemist Says:

    You guys are all quite a bit smarter than I am on scientific matters so I defer always on those issues.
    On the other hand, socially, emotionally and based on the facts as presented I feel qualified to comment.

    The way I see it is that Charest is asking for more than he deserves and defaming good people along the way with spurious accusations predicated on his own emotional reactions to conversations held many years ago.
    From what I’ve been told when a post doc moves into industry they then recieve $1.00 for any patent issued regardless of whether it has become a billion dollar drug or not. 18% is a whole lot more than that.
    Also didn’t I read that the Meyer’s group had been working on this problem for 10 years previously. Charest may have had the breakthrough idea but Andy provided the place to have it. He provided the problem and many, many paths tht Charest did not have to wander down since they had been tried and found as false. All that provision is worth more than anything Charest, in his limited time and experience, ever provided.
    I see this as one more example of ego raising its ugly head and creating problems for everyone and money for lawyers!
    Also, one more point… if Andy Meyers chooses not to provide a reference for Mark, that is completely his choice as Marks advisor for his post doctoral years.

  49. Lyle Langley Says:

    @Paul,

    Quite the hostile one, aren’t we? In a nutshell, no, it’s not very difficult to determine who should be on a patent. Are there disputes? Heck, yes. People don’t like being told they are not an inventor – it’s not a fun conversation, it must be an ego thing, However, companies, researchers, etc. do this every single time they file a patent – or at least those that want to make sure their patent isn’t invalidated later do. In fact, most go back and re-evaluate and take inventors off if they feel they are not part of the inventive step, or if the claims have changed from the provisional to application to granted patent. Sorry that you, and your previous advisor never asked the question. Simply putting people from the paper on a patent, is, well, stupid. Maybe they deserve to be, but that should never be the default option. Not using a competent patent attorney is another step that is, well, stupid. I am no fan of lawyers, but they are there for a reason – most good ones even have experience in the patent office so they know the ins and outs of the business quite well. Going with patents the way you’ve described is a bit of a gamble.

  50. Paul Says:

    Lyle Langley: Quite the hostile one, aren’t we?

    Oh, come on. You love it. You regularly troll comment threads on chemblogs leaving rude or off-base, unsubstantiated comments. (I will note you never provided your “cut and dried” definition for what constitutes an intellectual contribution to an invention.) Other examples:

    In this thread about TAing orgo:

    Where does one download the “Who is Jean-Luc Picard” handout? So you’re going to be one of those “trying” to be funny profs, huh?

    I hope your shoulder is still intact after all the back-patting you’re doing. I hate to burst your bubble, but those evaluations are pretty meaningless.

    and in this thread, where I chose not to attend a meeting because my girlfriend (now, fiance) broke her leg:

    And it was a girlfriend that broke a leg? Hope she feels better…but (queue the whip noise)…seriously, you cannot attend a meeting because a “girlfriend” gets hurt. Wife, I can see, but really… Sorry, not a good excuse.

    and here on Chemjobber, where I think you got the wrong end of the stick:

    “Unfortunately, this website caters to the bashing of the educational system and PI’s in general. Again, the NJ mentality – I’m loudest therefore I’m right.”

    “Sorry Chemjobber, take off the rose-colored glasses. Yours is not the only website that falls into this, but whenever there is talk about graduate school, this dissolves into how bad all PI’s are and how they didn’t “help” everyone. Or how it’s the graduate schools fault for having too many Ph.D.’s, etc. If you don’t see it, you’re not looking.”

  51. Lyle Langley Says:

    @Paul….

    Wow, stalk much? I must have an internet fan – or do I need an internet restraining order?

    I stand by my statement about patenting (and all comments by the way – 1. Professors “trying” to be funny is sad, 2. Girlfriend, broken leg, need I say more?’ 3. Chemjobber? Seriously, his (and, other sites, cater to the PI bashing – in fact, this story is another great example)), sorry that they strike a nerve (obviously as you have all my comments at the ready) and clearly are at odds with yours. But, that doesn’t change the fact that you are very naive about patents, yet you still “report” on them, and want to argue about them. Hopefully if you have a patentable idea at your new job you’ll actually get some guidance and not use the methods of your previous PI’s who seem as clueless as you, otherwise it’s simply a waste of money. Never have so many, with so little to say, said so much to so few.

  52. Paul Says:

    Stalk? Those are memorable comments you left here and at another chemistry blog. That is stalking?

    And surprise, surprise…once again, you leave yet another scolding comment with zero informative content or substantiation of your opinions.

    Formula for a Lyle Langley comment: 1) begin with rude or dismissive remark, 2) state an opinion that is contrary and inflammatory, but possibly tenable, 3) provide little to nothing to back up the opinion, 4) when called on it, state that the reasons are obvious (e.g., “if you don’t see it, you’re not looking” and “need I say more?”)

  53. Chemjobber Says:

    Lyle, I think you would be surprised at the tone of my comments on the Charest/Myers case:

    http://chemjobber.blogspot.com/2013/07/is-professor-in-fiduciary-relationship.html

    I don’t think there was any PI bashing in my post. I don’t understand your issues with me.

  54. Chemjobber Says:

    Moreover, there’s hardly any PI bashing in the comments to the post, too. I don’t get it.

  55. anon Says:

    Lyle Langley, Outed as a Repeat-Offender Blog Troll!

    your days of trolling chemistry blogs are through, lyle langley. time to push your monorail of libel and disrespect a little further down the line. what you’re sellin, we ain’t buyin. the homosexual cabal is onto your instigative antics and they won’t be tolerated any longer. don’t let the door hit you on the way out

  56. Lyle Langley Says:

    Wow, the gang has come out. How was I rude or dismissive in my original post? My comment was simply that being “generous” in patent inclusion is not correct. Obviously you, Mr. Bracher, took it offensively and had comments at the ready in an attempt to dismiss my calling out your ignorance of the subject. Now the lackeys come to your defense – it’s a bit creepy now. Chemjobber, sorry I don’t read your blog anymore – but thanks for linking it, something you do quite often (hey everyone, look, I have a blog!). Lastly, “Anon” calling someone out as a “troll” using “Anon” as a handle is ballsy (homosexual cabal? Really?!).

    I know these blogs like to have lovefests and don’t do well with dissent, but sometimes people need to be called out, especially when those blogs “pretend” to be journalists. But please, Mr. Bracher, continue “reporting” on issues you know nothing about. The world needs it.

  57. bad wolf Says:

    I guess Paul forgot 5) feigned ignorance and passive-aggressive posturing. Although to be fair, the last comment also follows formula steps 1-4 pretty well.

    And i know i’m a ‘lackey’ for saying it, but i believe it’s Dr. Bracher now.

  58. eugene Says:

    I don’t think Lyle is a troll. It’s good to have a contrarian point and a discussion, otherwise the comments turn into an echo chamber and Lyle is often arguing against me, like I noticed in that Chemjobber post. Plus he’s a jerk, as evidenced by that ‘Paul missing San Diego’ thread, but I’m personally okay with that. Enough of people have been jerks to me in the past, I’ve learned to deal with it.

    Too bad Mica is gone, although his ‘it’s a lynch mob!’ is just a tap out to end the conversation. Hopefully Lyle will be around. I’m guessing the ‘anon’ post was a bit of a joke.

    I’m also pretty bad with remembering names. I have a vague recollection that ‘bad wolf’ and ‘lyle langley’ post in some other threads, but I can’t remember what they talked about there, so there won’t be too much history on the next post between us at least.

  59. Chemjobber Says:

    I wish I had Lyle’s ability to toss off nastiness so well — it would probably serve me well in the office. (Actually, it would probably not.)

    I actually really like Lyle’s contrarian comments on issues, but it is traditionally combined with a meanness that is non-traditional for the chemblogosphere.

    Lyle also goes wrong in two places, where 1) he believes that commenters reflect the blogger’s take and 2) that he seems to believe that it is the responsibility of the blog owner to correct commenter misperceptions. Common mistakes. (Shrug.)

  60. Hap Says:

    Lyle:ChemBark::Caledonian:Pharyngula

  61. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    “But please, Mr. Bracher, continue “reporting” on issues you know nothing about. The world needs it.”

    I look forward to reading your blog, the one where you report on issues on which you are infallible.

  62. Paul Says:

    Added new links to stories on In The Pipeline and The Harvard Crimson.

  63. Mica Says:

    Eugene,

    “Too bad Mica is gone, although his ‘it’s a lynch mob!’ is just a tap out to end the conversation. ”

    Perhaps, and I admit being guilty (even in this text!) of hyperbole myself, but consider: It starts with a fire-in-the-belly-speech that encourages masses to riot, behead, and occupy. Speech full of hyperbole that reflects resentment based on abstract notions of (e.g., social) justice and a need for what are perceived as “just” (e.g., equal) outcomes. Not that dissimilar to:

    “…And in case you are naive, the chains don’t get unshackled just because you’ve graduated…” paragraph.

    Then it continues with the “masses” agreeing (e.g., “Well, Myers better…”) and shouting down anyone not pure enough (e.g. “So you’re with them, huh?”) and the next step, if given opportunity, would be heads rolling (ok, not lynching, but head-cutting mob, circa 1790′s, that killed one of our most distinguished colleagues). :)

    Now, what’s puzzling to me is how things have changed since my times (and Andy’s times, although he is probably ~10 years my senior). Then, splitting equally with students, and to each student according to his/her contributions, would have been put up as an example of chivalry, correct approach, and a revolutionary model for everyone to follow, while this, what we would interpret as perhaps tantrum, perhaps simple opportunism, “if I don’t sign, I can get more…” would not get much traction. I don’t believe that advisers got worse, probably everyone even mellowed a bit, and I don’t think students changed at all (i.e., I don’t claim we were tougher, less spoiled, or anything like that).

    The first two things that come to my mind to explain these generational differences are: (1) Future is now much more bleak post-graduation with the (self?)destruction of pharma, funding rates dropping, less well defined disciplinary tracks, etc., and all these have a heavy impact on how students/postdocs perceive advisers (in abstract) and their general environment; and (2) People are absorbing the culture of making class-driven arguments from certain popular politicians, something that was not present at all in the mainstream ~ twenty years ago.

  64. Chemjobber Says:

    “People are absorbing the culture of making class-driven arguments from certain popular politicians.”

    Could you provide an example of this? It’s an interesting comment and I’d like to hear more about what you think.

  65. eugene Says:

    ‘and shouting down anyone not pure enough (e.g. “So you’re with them, huh?”)’

    Jesus, don’t take it so seriously. Originally I meant it a little jokingly, even though I was aware that it would be read seriously by some. It’s not like ‘them’ has much to worry about it because they represent the system and all the privilege that entails. Haven’t you read any Haruki Murakami books?

    Don’t worry, no one is going to guillotine you.

    You know, the latest expansion of Civilization 5 came out last week, so I’ve been playing for a long time now and the world looks a bit blurry and your comment won’t sit in my brain too well. Plus I have to finish writing a grant… but on some level I think your point #1 was correct, even though all I can think about is my Greek empire for now and how I’m going to crush the Zulu. Worse outcomes and job insecurity do not inspire automatic confidence in the gatekeepers to the less-wonderful job world; now it should be earned.

    Your second point is political and I’m not going to discuss it here, but you can answer chemjobber if you feel like it.

  66. Mica Says:

    Don’t worry, Eugene, I also meant it jokingly…and no, I will not try to make you be defensive over siding with Greeks over Zulu’s :) (although at some level you would deserve it for that name thing!).

    Chemjobber:

    Student was born free, but forever he is in chains paragraph vs. various 2012 speeches? Disclaimer, I am NOT, resolutely and unequivocally NOT, comparing an honorable (and idealistic) person making living from his/her intellectual effort with politicians (of all sorts).

  67. Lyle Langley Says:

    @CW…
    ““But please, Mr. Bracher, continue “reporting” on issues you know nothing about. The world needs it.”

    I look forward to reading your blog, the one where you report on issues on which you are infallible.”

    Ouch, let me get some ointment for my 3rd degree burn! That was just plain mean, and I know people on this site detest mean people. But, I didn’t realize that Blogs are the only place to write about issues – I know they are great for pretend journalists, though. Sorry, you’re so 2009.


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