Minister of Education Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) founded a US company in his name using a patented technology that belonged to National Dong Hwa University while he was its president in 2015, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said yesterday.
Wu in August 2015 founded a company called Spiranthes Biotech LLC in California, she said.
The company specializes in technologies related to spiranthes extracts and is registered in Wu’s and fellow board director James Y. Oyang’s (歐陽彥堂) names, she added.
However, the technology is patented in Taiwan and belongs to the university, she said, adding that this raises questions about its ownership.
“By founding a for-profit company in the US, Wu has apparently violated Article 13 of the Public Functionary Service Act (公務員服務法), which bans civil servants from owning and investing in businesses,” she said.
In 2016, another company named Spiranthes Biotech (師沛恩) was founded in Taiwan, with Wu’s former student serving as chairman and his wife serving as board director, she said.
At Wu’s first question-and-answer session as minister at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, Ko asked him whether the university has transferred full rights to the technology to him and whether the company has shared its revenue with the university.
The technology was not transferred to him, Wu said, but added that he was one of the four researchers who invented it.
“We wanted to better protect the technology and Oyang was helping us apply for a Patent Cooperation Treaty patent in the US,” he said, adding that they have applied for patents in many nations and are still in the process of obtaining some.
The student in the Taiwanese Spiranthes Biotech was also one of the inventors and his wife invested in the business “to encourage students to found start-ups,” he said.
“[National Taiwan University president-elect] Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) was accused of not fully disclosing his work history or a conflict of interest, and for illegally taking on part-time jobs — which one of those have you not been accused of?” she asked Wu.
Wu should set an example for educators and clarify the ministry’s standards for what constitutes conflicts of interest and full work history disclosures, specifically in the case of Spiranthes Biotech, to avoid a double standard, she said.
When asked by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) about the ministry’s progress on Kuan’s case, Wu said he would on Friday decide whether to approve the appointment.
If the investigation finds Kuan had illegally worked in China, his appointment would not be approved, Wu said.
He also promised DPP Legislator Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤) that he would within three months establish more detailed regulations defining the differences between illegal part-time work and legal academic exchanges.
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