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This profile was last updated on 9/26/14  and contains information from public web pages.

Mr. Robert Alexander

Wrong Robert Alexander?

Laboratory Manager

Phone: (301) ***-****  HQ Phone
Lofstrand Labs Limited
7961 Cessna Avenue
Gaithersburg , Maryland 20879
United States

Company Description: Founded in 1983, Lofstrand Labs has been dedicated to providing the highest quality research support to scientists around the world. We are proud to provide the...   more
Background

Employment History

Education

  • B.S. , Biology
    University of Maryland
8 Total References
Web References
About Us: Lofstrand Laboratories Limited
www.lofstrand.com, 26 Sept 2014 [cached]
Robert Alexander Laboratory Manager
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Robert Alexander joined Lofstrand Labs in 1983 and is the most senior staff member with over twenty years with the company. Prior to joining Lofstrand, Bob worked with Dr. Smith as a senior research assistant performing molecular studies on the etiology of human cancer.
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Bob received a B.S. in Biology from the University of Maryland, and serves as Laboratory Manager, Radiation Safety Officer and Head of the Molecular Probes Department.
Mr. Alexander worked together with other staff members at Lofstrand Labs in developing the In Situ Hybridization capability now offered by the company. Bob is also co-inventor of the Lofstrand Bactolift.
Who owns the IP employees create :: Sparke Helmore
www.sparke.com.au, 6 Mar 2014 [cached]
Who owns a patent developed during a person's employment?  This was the question facing the Australian Patent Office in The Royal Children's Hospital v Robert Alexander.
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Dr Alexander was employed by the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) as a Senior Scientist in the Virology Laboratory. During the course of his employment, Dr Alexander conceived two inventions and applied to have the inventions patented in his name. RCH disputed Dr Alexander's entitlement to the patents because of the employer-employee relationship, which it claimed meant that it owned the invention, and applied to have the application proceed in RCH's name.
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The key issue in this case was whether there is an implied term in Dr Alexander's employment contract that inventions developed by Dr Alexander in the course of his employment would belong to RCH.
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Dr Alexander did not obtain external funding for his research and was not pursuing individual research interests independent of those of his employer, and Dr Alexander's research was related to the primary purpose of the hospital and benefitted the hospital's interests.
Although there was no duty of confidentiality, normally an indication there is not an implied duty to invent, the Delegate noted that in this case the hospital's public interest role was served by disclosing and sharing new methods and techniques by making them publicly available. Accordingly, it was held that the lack of a duty of confidentiality did not remove an implied duty to invent in this situation.
This was enough for the Delegate to distinguish this case from UWA v Gray; however, the key issues of whether Dr Alexander had a "duty to invent" and the inventions were created in the course of his employment, had to be determined to answer the question of who owned the inventions.
Duty to invent
The Delegate noted that although there was no pure research conducted at RCH, Dr Alexander's role involved improving the clinical testing procedures at the hospital. This was held to be enough to result in a "duty to invent", although the duty was limited to the agreed purpose by reference to his job requirement, which in this case, was to identify potential areas of improvement.
The Delegate held that the inventions would have been invented in the course of Dr Alexander's employment, and therefore belong to RCH, if they were:
a solution to a recognised problem which Dr Alexander would have been reasonably expected to resolve, or a result of pursuing a particular avenue of research in the reasonable expectation of identifying potential improvements.
Assessing the Recovery Medium Invention against these criteria, the Delegate held that it was an extension of the work commenced by researchers in the RCH and it was an avenue of research which Dr Alexander would be expected to investigate further in the reasonable expectation of identifying potential improvements. Accordingly, it was held to have been invented in the course of Dr Alexander's employment and RCH was entitled to its ownership.
However, in the case of the Well Design Invention, the Delegate held that there was no clear motivation for Dr Alexander to pursue this avenue of research in the reasonable expectation of identifying improvements, and therefore it was not invented in the course of his employment, because:
The Royal Children's Hospital v Robert ...
www.davies.com.au, 20 Dec 2011 [cached]
The Royal Children's Hospital v Robert Alexander[2011] APO 94 (10 November 2011)
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The decision arose as a result of a claim by The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) that it was entitled to two patent applications by Dr Robert Alexander, as the employer of Dr Alexander. The RCH sought a direction from the Commissioner of Patents that both applications are to proceed in its name only.
Both applications relate to improvements in viral diagnostic methods and kits which may be used with a viral detection technique known as Rapid Enhanced Tissue Culture Immunofluoresence (RETCIF) the subject of an earlier innovation patent of which Dr Alexander was a co-inventor:
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what Dr Alexander's position was at The Royal Children's Hospital; whether Dr Alexander had a duty to invent whether the inventions were created in the course of Dr Alexander's employment; the effect that the Royal Children's Hospital's IP policy had on ownership; and whether the case was analogous to University of Western Australia v. Gray.
What was Dr Alexander's position at The Royal Children's Hospital?
At the time the inventions described in both applications were made Dr Alexander was employed by the RCH as the Head of Virology. Dr Alexander's primary role was to maintain the Virology/Tissue Culture and Molecular Diagnostics service, and was responsible for both the quality and efficiency of the viral diagnostic work undertaken.
The Hearing Officer found that Dr Alexander's position in the management chain of the RCH was not "...a position which might attract an additional 'duty of fidelity' to forward the interests of his employer even if the position itself did not contain a duty to invent. As a result, the key question was whether Dr Alexander's position at the RCH contained either an express or implied duty to invent, and in addition whether the inventions were created in the course of Dr Alexander's employment.
Did Dr Alexander have a duty to invent?
The Hearing Officer noted that one of Dr Alexander's specific job requirements was to identify "potential areas for improvement in the diagnostic service". It was however also noted that RCH generally did not pursue substantial improvements to the RETCIF technique unless there was a clear motivation to do so. With these considerations in mind the Hearing Officer held that Dr Alexander had a duty to invent only "when there was a clear motivation which arose in the course of his employment".
The Hearing Officer then considered two broad circumstances where Dr Alexander would have been motivated to identify an improvement in the course of his employment:
Where there was a recognised problem which he would have been reasonably expected to resolve Where he was otherwise motivated to pursue a particular avenue of research in the reasonable expectation of identifying potential improvements
Was each invention created in the course of Dr Alexander's employment? Recovery medium patent The Hearing Officer opined that a skilled worker would recognise that media supplementation was a potential avenue of research where further improvements could be made, and that given Dr Alexander's expertise, was an avenue of research that he would be expected to further investigate with a reasonable expectation of identifying potential improvements.
The expectation of Dr Alexander to further investigate media supplementation with a reasonable expectation of identifying potential improvements was viewed by the Hearing Officer as providing "clear motivation to making the claimed improvement in the course of Dr Alexander's employment". It was therefore held that the invention claimed in the application was made in the course of Dr Alexander's employment, and was therefore owned by RCH. Diagnostic well patent The Hearing Officer had regard to evidence before her which suggested that the existing single well design was effective, and that "a substantial improvement was neither likely nor needed". The Hearing Officer therefore held that the invention claimed was not made in the course of Dr Alexander's employment, because there was "no clear motivation for Dr Alexander to pursue this avenue of research in the reasonable expectation of identifying improvements".
What effect did The Royal Children's Hospital's IP policy have on ownership?
The RCH initially argued that its IP policy, which stated that IP generated by employees during the course of their employment is the property of RCH, was imported into Dr Alexander's contract. On this basis RCH contended that Dr Alexander's contract contained an explicit provision for transferring rights in any invention from Dr Alexander to the RCH.
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1 In finding that the circumstances were not analogous, the Hearing Officer relied on differences between the "primary purpose" of Dr Alexander's research and Dr Gray's research.
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In contrast, the Hearing Officer noted that Dr Alexander's research on improving viral diagnostic techniques in use at the RCH would enable the RCH to better diagnose viral diseases, and on this basis is related to the primary purpose of the RCH and directly benefits the RCH and advances its interests.
Implications of the decision
Given the specific role and responsibilities of Dr Alexander, including the particular requirements set out in his job description to identify potential areas of improvement in diagnostic services, it is likely that this decision will be confined to its own facts.
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Dr Alexander lodged an appeal in the Federal Court from the Hearing Officer's decision on 1 December, 2011.
Microbiology : Contact Microbiology
www.rch.org.au, 17 July 2009 [cached]
Senior Scientist: Robert Alexander Lab Contact: 9345 5850
Employer / Employee Ownership of IP – applying UWA v Gray | Freehills Patent Attorneys, Australia
www.freehillspatents.com, 10 Jan 2012 [cached]
The APO followed the UWA v Gray approach but in contrast to that case, the APO in RCH v Alexander found that:
as an employee of the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH), Dr Alexander had a duty to invent under certain circumstances, and one of the two relevant inventions was created in the course of employment and belonged to RCH.
The Royal Children's Hospital v Robert Alexander [2011] APO 94 (RCH v Alexander)
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In 2006 two provisional patent applications were filed in the name of Dr Alexander who commenced employment as the Head of Virology at RCH in 1996. The first (AP1) relates to a virus recovery medium that assists with improved detection of viruses. The second (AP2) relates to a device used for viral diagnostics.
RCH filed a request that AP1 and AP2 proceed in the name of RCH alone on the basis that the inventions were created in the course of Dr Alexander's employment with RCH and Dr Alexander had a duty to invent.
The APO held that RCH was solely entitled to AP1 as it was created in the course of Dr Alexander's employment, but that Dr Alexander was solely entitled to AP2.
Scope of employment
Dr Alexander's role included generally identifying potential for improvement to RCH's diagnostics techniques.
While the APO noted that Dr Alexander was expected to at least optimise the relevant methodology, it also noted that RCH only pursued improvements if there was a clear benefit to RCH in doing so and did not support Dr Alexander's research financially. This meant Dr Alexander's scope for identifying or making substantial improvements was limited.
Given the above, the APO held that Dr Alexander had a 'duty to invent' only where:
the problem was one he would ordinarily have been expected to resolve, or there was clear potential for improvement (but not where improvements were merely possible).
The APO determined that AP1 was the product of Dr Alexander's efforts to optimise the existing RCH viral diagnostic techniques. AP2, however, was not an improvement that was directly needed for RCH's purposes and there was no clear motivation for Dr Alexander to undertake this line of research.
Analogies to UWA v Gray
Dr Alexander argued that the circumstances in RCH v Alexander were analogous to those in UWA v Gray. The APO, however, pointed to differences between the two cases which led it to decide at least partly in favour of RCH.
The APO noted that Dr Alexander:
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This issue was raised in RCH v Alexander although the APO determined that the lack of an obligation of confidentiality on Dr Alexander did not negate the duty to invent given that in the opinion of the APO (as noted above), RCH did not need to commercialise the invention to benefit from it.
In UWA v Gray there was also discussion around the nature of UWA as a public education organisation. The Full Federal Court drew a distinction between the nature of universities and of private sector entities, and discussed how this distinction impacted on confidentiality and fiduciary obligations between employees and employers in each such circumstance.
In RCH v Alexander the APO appears to have extended the UWA v Gray distinction between public and private entities to hospitals.
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The decision in RCH v Alexander obviously does not go into such detail so it is unclear the extent to which the APO may apply this distinction to other types of organisations.
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1. The Royal Children's Hospital v Robert Alexander [2011] APO 94 at 47
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