PHILADELPHIA—A federal lawsuit involving the University of Pennsylvania professor who developed Retin-A, the now-legendary drug said to reverse the effect of aging on the skin, has wrinkled the brows of university administrators, who say they would prefer to settle the matter out of court.

In a case that observers believe is the first of its kind, the university has been named an involuntary plaintiff in a suit filed by University Patents Inc., a Westport, Conn., patentlicensing firm, against Albert M. Kligman, emeritus professor of dermatology at Penn’s School of Medicine. But the lawsuit could have an impact extending far beyond the school’s West Philadelphia campus. Stuart Beck, a patent attorney and adjunct professor of patent law at Rutgers Law School in Camden, N.J., predicts that “this is something that’s going to be watched” by university officials across the country, who as a result will “take a harder look at [the...

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