UO loses lawsuit to Professor Mossberg

11/23/2012: Diane Dietz in the RG:

The University of Oregon breached its employment contract with former physics professor Thomas Mossberg when it dismantled his laboratory at the UO in 2004, a Marion County Circuit Court judge has ruled.

Dietz gets several quotes from UO General Counsel Randy Geller, e.g.:

“We intend to continue to vigorously defend the case and are confident that we will ultimately prevail in the case,” UO General Counsel Randy Geller said.

It’s not clear what Randy means by “We”. Ms Dietz notes that UO is represented in court by competent outside counsel, Miller Nash from Portland. While Geller came to UO in January 2003 (resume here), this intellectual property dispute was presumably in large part the responsibility of Geller’s favorite former boss UO General Counsel Emerita Melinda Grier, who is well known for her “deficient legal representation” of UO in other circumstances.

Damages for the Mossberg case are a long way from being determined. In 2007 Professor Jean Stockard won a $500,000 settlement in a whistleblower lawsuit against UO. One interesting aspect of these suits is who pays. UO has liability insurance of some sort from an OUS policy with United Educators – but I don’t know what they cover. I’ve asked Jamie Moffitt. She thinks the faculty doesn’t need to know that sort of thing, but says I can always make a public records request. Hmm.

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23 Responses to UO loses lawsuit to Professor Mossberg

  1. Zach says:

    Wow, Geller really comes off well in that one…

  2. Anonymous says:

    UO Administration:

    “We won’t tell you that, make a public records request if you want to know.”


    “You are making too many public records requests and they are costing us so much time and money!”

    • UO Matters says:

      Maybe Johnson Hall should insure its administrators against the possibility of embarrassing public records disclosures?

  3. Anonymous says:

    If I were another university competing with UO to hire top-tier faculty talent, I could no better than to distribute Randy Geller’s comments to my targets.

    On the other hand, why would I need to worry about UO competition anymore? It’s attractive only to athletic stars now.

    Thank goodness my old school is still good at something.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Randy’s above the law as always.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if OSU’s lawyer gets a hardon about screwing over their faculty.

    • UO Matters says:

      Careful friend, that’s two. Good question though. This suit seems a bit at odds with the University’s stated goal of promoting research, especially translational research. But then much of what happens in JH seems at odds with UO’s stated goals.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog says

      Remember the Mossberg incident occurred under jtm and there was already politics there
      Still it was handled badly

    • Anonymous says:

      Ironic, given the rumors that Moseley was a secret investor in another prof’s (unsuccessful) startup.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mossberg was famous for spewing venom through all-department emails, arm-waving tantrums, and using words like “Betrayed!!” in conversation. Whatever it takes to sever the relationship for good, is worth it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sounds like you didn’t like him. I wonder what he thought of you!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow, don’t know about the venom he is alleged to have spewed, but your comment reeks of it. When the focus is on arm waving rather than millions in federal moneys, 75 patents, hundreds of technical publications, and so on, the Institution is seriously hurting.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Not at me, but my spouse and his unlucky co-workers.
    I’m grateful to UO Matters for shining a light in all the dark corners of goings-on at the University. If TM was mis-treated, all amends should be made. I’m just saying…it will be good when all remnants of his time there are gone.

    • Anonymous says:

      As I recall the negative comments about Mossberg originated with staff member Patty Valenzuela and were championed by Dietrich Belitz and a small cabal of folks that saw Mossberg as too uppity. Apparently the methodology of the cabal comprised whispers behind closed doors ultimately reaching the administration. That input may have affected how the administrators treated Mossberg’s entrepreneurial activities and ultimately in how his contract was breached. It does not speak well of the administration that this sort of innuendo-based character assassination was tolerated much less given credence. If there are problems, constructive and objective fact finding and resolution are called for. Perhaps it is because the administration itself is driven by personal considerations rather than constructive professional considerations that we have so much trouble generally. Personal vendettas are generally bad and enlightened management does not allow such to occur, in fact, treating perpetrators of personal attack as serious offenders themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      “Cabal” “vendetta” “innuendo-based character assassination”…all terms that typify TM’s world view and interactions with faculty and students. There absolutely were problems during his tenure, they may have been mis-handled by administration. May it be solved relatively smoothly and cleanly.

    • Anonymous says:

      One could use the above comment as a dictionary example of “innuendo-based character assassination.” Aspersion is cast sans facts of any kind. Can we tolerate this kind of character assassination? Having known Mossberg, I know he was quirky but not mean. He had high standards academically and scientifically. Some took those standards personally. He was well rated in his classes (I’ve seen the records) and he had many successful and appreciative doctoral students (having been on at least one of the committees). The personal assaults on him typically come from those significantly less distinguished and talented. Human nature I guess. He could have done many good things for student opportunities in industry at UO. Many petty factors took the students’ opportunity away.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dog Says

      doesn’t innuendo-based character assassination make the UO world go around when all parties are insecure?

      innuendo-based character assassination is exactly the reason
      that Dale Smith was not hired to be the next CIO after Joanne Hugi retired, and the campus has paid a big price for that.

      and to the anon immediately above – independent of any character virtues or flaws – any one with “high academic standards” will be penalized. That is the law.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The lesson is that if you want to do translational research at UO, be sure you offer the right administrators a cut of the action.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I wonder about this professor, brought in with lots of hoopla, doing research for the UO, then starting companies for his personal enrichment. No one seems interested in the intellectual property he may have provided his new businesses. Does the UO have any rights to technologies he may have developed? Where is the Intellectual Transfer department is in all this? No one seems interested in discussing this aspect.

    • UO Matters says:

      I heard a lot of crap about “job-creators” all fall.

      This guy has actually invented something new and has actually *created new jobs*. In Oregon, no less. Let’s hire more people like that, and figure out a reasonable revenue sharing arrangement that benefits them and Oregon.

      That said none of my research is of much practical use so I confess I have no experience with how UO does it now – well or badly – or how they should do it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Under Oregon Administrative Rules, UO owns any invention created by a faculty member using UO resources. Does this mean UO owns an invention created by a Professor on his own time? Lot’s of folks think so. Is that fair? If you write novels on the weekend should your Mon-Fri employer own all the rights to your novel? The lawyers who decide such things can’t tell if physics invention A is related to physics research proposal B since words like photon and atom and the like may be used in both and therefore funded research B must have contributed to invention A and so anything that falls within the professional expertise of the Professor is owned by UO. Make sense?

    • UO Matters says:

      As clear as the summer sun.

    • Anonymous says:

      dog says

      of the various many things that are done in an amateur fashion
      at the UO, Tech Transfer is way up there. This is part of the
      problem in the Mossberg case.