PHILADELPHIA--In a move that surprises many observers, the University of Pennsylvania has sued one of its own professors and a pharmaceutical firm over the ownership of a patent on Retin-A, an anti-acne drug also said to reduce wrinkles on the skin. The case is likely to be watched closely by administrators at other universities because it demonstrates a willingness on the part of a major research institution to seek legal recourse against a faculty member - a strategy usually reserved for cases of gross misconduct - in a patent dispute.

The suit, filed January 22 in U.S. District Court, alleges that Albert M. Kligman, an emeritus professor of dermatology in Penn's School of Medicine, circumvented the university's patent policy by signing an agreement with Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp., a subsidiary of the New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson Co., to license Retin-A as a wrinkle cream. Penn alleges that although Kligman...

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