The temptation that proved costly

Karnatak University researcher claims that he has been wronged on his invention

M. Madan Mohan

DHARWAD: Mahadeva Karidurgannavar of the Postgraduate Department of Chemistry is ruing the day when he succumbed to the temptation of seeking a U.S. patent for his work on a new "ion exchange membrane" which helps in the conversion of brackish water into potable water.

The patent was secured all right, but he had to share the credit for the work with two others. And neither he nor Karnatak University, under whose auspices the research was carried out, has got any benefit out of the work done by the researcher. What was shocking was the discovery that the patent had been assigned to someone else, leaving him and Karnatak University high and dry.

The university has constituted a one-man committee to look into the patent procedures. Dr. Karidurgannavar comes from a poor family in a remote village in Hangal taluk of Haveri district.

After his M.Sc. in 1988 he did his Ph.D. on "Physico Chemical Studies in Metal Complexes" from Karnatak University. He has been associated with the Centre for Polymer Science Research of Karnatak University along with T.M. Amminabhavi.

Over 50 articles of Dr. Karidurgannavar have been published in international journals

Dr. Karidurgannavar says his work is radically different from the others and is also cost effective, and has immense commercial application.

He recalled with gratitude the encouragement and support got from the famous Japanese scientist, Satan, who has patented two of the four membrane formulae evolved.

It was Dr. Amminabhavi, his teacher in M.Sc., who suggested to Dr. Karidurgannavar that a U.S. patent had more advantages than an Indian one.

He signed the papers and handed them over to Dr. Amminabhavi.

Dr. Karidurgannavar agreed to include the names of Dr. Amminabhavi and Padmakar Kulkarni, a resident of America whose help was sought in patent-related work. This happened between 2000 and 2001.


Meanwhile, a rift developed between Dr. Karidurgannavar and Dr. Amminabhavi on the question of follow-up action and on getting the copies of papers signed for getting the patent. Matters went to such an extent that Dr. Karidurgannavar filed a complaint and a case under the Prevention of Atrocities Act has been registered against Dr. Amminabhavi.

Dr. Karidurgannavar says that it was by accident that he learnt that his work has been patented in the U.S. (No. 6,814,865) under the title "Ion exchange membranes, methods and processes for production therefore and uses in specific applications."

Other names

The names of the inventors had been mentioned as "Tejraj Amminbhavi (Austin, Texas) U.S., Padmakar Kulkarni, Dallas, Texas (U.S.)," appearing as the first two names and of Dr. Karidurgannavar, Pawate Nagar (India) as the third and last name. The patent papers also revealed "Assigned to Seventy Seventh Meridian Corporation, LLC, Dallas (U.S.)."

Dr. Karidurgannavar said he was totally in the dark about the party to whom the patent has been assigned and whether or not any consideration had been paid.

Khaja Peer, Vice-Chancellor, said the university was not aware of the developments till the scientist spoke about it. The university was trying to get in touch with Dr. Amminabhavi, who is in the U.S., and also Dr. Kulkarni, a resident of Dallas.

The university would go into the whole episode and take action against the guilty. It would explore ways of securing the university its due, the Vice-Chancellor said.

What is available now is only Dr. Karidurgannavar's version. It remains to be seen whether the one-man committee will be able to get the version of Dr. Amminabhavi and Dr. Kulkarni, before submitting its report.

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