Harvard settles lawsuit over royalty payments

Harvard’s Cambridge campus.
Harvard’s Cambridge campus.Lisa Poole/Associated Press/file

A former graduate student who claimed his research contribution was undervalued has settled a lawsuit against Harvard University, averting a rare trial that promised to open a window on the school’s handling of royalties that could total millions of dollars.

Terms of the settlement between Harvard and Mark G. Charest, who worked in Harvard professor Andrew G. Myers’s chemistry lab, weren’t disclosed.

“I am very pleased to accept terms I view as equitable,” Charest said in a statement Thursday.

Harvard spokesman David Cameron said, “The litigation was resolved on mutually agreeable terms.”

The case centered on a method for synthetically creating a new class of antibiotics, discovered in Myers’s lab and licensed to Watertown’s Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals Inc.


Tetraphase raised $75 million in a 2013 initial public offering of stock on the strength of that technology.

Charest, who was lead author of a paper in the journal Science describing the discovery, filed his complaint in 2013 in US District Court in Boston. It alleged, among other things, that he was cheated out of patent royalties worth about $10 million. Harvard denied the charges.

Judge Douglas P. Woodlock dismissed five of Charest’s claims in February, but let him move forward with two others: that Harvard denied him a proper appeals process and withheld royalty payments after he appealed.

In a 2014 hearing on Harvard’s motion to dismiss the case, the judge described Harvard’s “raggedy-ass approach” to resolving patent allocation appeals.

Brian O’Reilly, a New York intellectual property attorney who represented Charest, said graduate students are “engines” of university research but often aren’t sufficiently recognized or rewarded.

“I think that there is a sea change coming with respect to students’ willingness to stand up to the power imbalances they face at large universities,” he said.

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.