University Hit With $40 Million Law Suit

Header-image-Shalapata-2By Ian Shalapata

(WINDSOR, ON) – At the heart of a partnership, between the University of Windsor and SunSource Grids Inc, is a revolutionary device called a solar switch. In essence, the switch would allow a facility, even something as large as a subdivision, to switch back and forth between the regular power grid and an alternative power source. The alternative could be solar panels, a geo-thermal pump, wind turbines, or any combination thereof.

Additionally, the solar switch, developed by inventor Marlon Hurst of SunSource Grids, would detect the need to transfer to the grid, and make that transfer so quickly that sensitive equipment, like computers, wouldn’t even blink. In most of the existing technology, the switch between power sources is too slow.

When SunSource and the University entered into their research collaboration in 2011, to pursue the solar switch, the agreement, according to an amended $40 million Statement of Claim filed in Superior Court, was for the two entities “to jointly develop a technology created by SunSource.”

When the relationship between SunSource and the University of Windsor commenced, the underlying concept behind the Solar Switch was largely developed. It was understood as between SunSource and the University of Windsor that the involvement of the University of Windsor in the further development of the Solar Switch technology was to finalize the practical application of the technology, and prepare it for commercialization. In particular, the University of Windsor’s primary involvement was to assist in preparing a prototype of the technology.

Apparently, the partnership turned south, and SunSource was forced to file a law suit against the University in October of 2013. The amended Statement of Claim alleges that employees with the University failed to fulfill their side of the agreement to further the technology and develop the prototype. Furthermore, SunSource is alleging fraud on the part of the University.

Two grants were obtained by the University to be used on the research. The first was $25,000 obtained from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The second was for $50,000 and provided by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev).

In both cases the cash infusions were intended to continue the development of a prototype of the technology.

According to the claim, the University failed to schedule Hurst to perform in-kind hours, preventing him from fulfilling his requirements of the partnership.

Despite the souring relationship, the two parties agreed that they would jointly hold the intellectual property, and that the University’s stake was 5% and could be purchased by Hurst for a $300,000 option.

Around the time of acquiring the FedDev grant, General Electric became interested in the Solar Switch technology. The interest expressed by GE eventually dissipated due to the on-going disagreements between SunSource and the University.

SunSource’s refusal to participate in an apparently ongoing and regular practice at the University of submitting false and misleading statements to the Federal government to appropriate grant monies created friction between the Plaintiff’s principle and the University. In particular, the Plaintiff’s objection to assisting the University in submitting false and misleading information to the Federal government contributed to the souring of the relationship between the University and the principal of SunSource.

When further interest was expressed by third party investors, the SunSource and University of Windsor relationship degraded further. The Claim alleges that the University acted in bad faith in order to frustrate attempts to commercialize the Solar Switch technology. Some of the bad faith steps included;

  1. taking the position that the University owned 50% of the entire Solar Switch technology;
  2. refusing to permit individuals involved in the project to speak to SunSource, or provide information necessary to complete a utility patent application;
  3. wrongly alleged that SunSource had failed to live up to its obligations despite knowing the allegations were false; and,
  4. representing to third part investors that SunSource had no interest in the ownership of the Solar Switch’s technology.

SunSource further alleges in the Claim that the University falsified documents submitted to FedDev and misrepresented the facts in order to avoid repaying the FedDev grant.

As a result of the conduct of the University of Windsor, SunSource suffered damages, including the loss of the value of the Solar Switch technology, the loss of the value of the ability to market the Solar Switch technology to purchasers and investors, losses related to the inability to finalize a utility patent for the technology and losses related to the delay in developing the technology.

The University’s legal representation, McTague Law Firm, has yet to file a counter claim or a Statement of Defense in relation to the amended claim.

The claims have yet to be proven in court.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.

1 Comment on "University Hit With $40 Million Law Suit"

  1. Some patent info for reference –

    http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20130285453

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