Wed, Apr 25, 2018 - Page 3 News List

KMT caucus says minister needs to prove innocence

INCOMPLETE DATA:Wu cited California government data as evidence he was not involved in founding a firm, but additional information identified him as a manager

By Sean Lin and Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporters

Minister of Education Wu Maw-kuen talks to reporters in Taipei yesterday after facing accusations of misconduct when he was president of National Dong Hwa University.

Photo: Cheng Shu-ting, Taipei Times

Newly inaugurated Minister of Education Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) must disprove an allegation that he breached regulations by founding a company in the US to apply for biotech patents while serving as National Dong Hwa University’s president in an attempt to profit from the school’s intellectual property, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus said yesterday.

During a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee on Monday, Wu sought to disavow his alleged involvement in Spiranthes Biotech, which he allegedly established in August 2015, when he was president of the university, KMT Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) told a news conference in Taipei.

Wu denied founding the company and presented information from the California state government’s Web site on registered businesses, which listed James Ouyang (歐陽彥堂) as the firm’s owner, Ko said.

However, Wu only disclosed half of the information from the Web site, she said.

Data from the Web site, which she paid US$27 to see, showed that Wu’s name appeared on a list of the firm’s “managers or members” as a manager and agent for the company, Ko said.

She accused Wu of applying for a technology patent in China in September 2015 using the company’s name without informing the university.

“As students wanted to obtain patents in China and to reduce patent application fees, James Ouyang proposed applying for a Patent Cooperation Treaty patent in the US, which would automatically grant applicants patent rights in Japan, China and the EU,” Wu said in a statement.

“However, as Taiwan is not a member of international organizations, Taiwanese must apply through China, which is something I could not accept. That is why we decided to found a company in the US, the sole purpose of which is to apply for patents,” he said, adding that he planned to give the patent rights to the university after obtaining them.

Wu has applied for five patents in four nations in the company’s name, and in all of the applications he specified that the university should have the priority claim for any patent awarded, Taipei city councilor aspirant Yu Shu-hui (游淑惠) of the KMT said.

However, Wu did not obtain the university’s approval before applying for the patents, nor did he sign a contract or agreement with the school to warrant a subsequent transfer of intellectual property rights, which could have easily been arranged, as he was president and allegedly one of the company’s managers at the time, Yu said.

University secretary-general Ku Chih-hsiung (古智雄) said school staff were unaware of the US company or its attempts to apply for patents in China until they saw it on the news.

The university still owns the rights to the technology, he said.

Prosecutors and investigators should inquire into the firm’s background to determine whether it was founded to help the university obtain patents or to steal its intellectual property, he said.

If Wu cannot prove that he is not a manager or agent of Spiranthes Biotech, he would be in breach of the Civil Servant Work Act (公務員服務法), which prohibits civil servants from engaging in most commercial activities, KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said.

Control Yuan member Kao Feng-hsien (高鳳仙) yesterday said she would investigate the matter to clarify if Wu has breached that act or the Act on the Recusal of Public Servants Due to Conflict of Interest (公職人員利益衝突迴避法).

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