Former minister of education Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) was yesterday impeached by the Control Yuan for contravening the Public Functionary Service Act (公務員服務法) and Act on the Recusal of Public Servants Due to Conflict of Interest (公職人員利益衝突迴避法) after he was found to have applied for patents for a technology owned by National Dong Hwa University in the name of his company.
The Control Yuan in April launched an investigation into Wu’s involvement with a company called Spiranthes Biotech LLC, which he founded in California in 2015, after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) accused him of illegally founding the company and applying for patents for technology he invented with a research team at the university.
Members on the Control Yuan’ examination committee unanimously voted to impeach Wu. It was the first time an examination committee at a government branch held an open vote that resulted in a unanimous decision.
Wu applied to establish the company on Aug. 18, 2015, and founded it on Sept. 2 after the state government approved his application, a Control Yuan report said.
Wu was one of the shareholders at the company, with managerial control over business operations, and participated in its patent application process, it said.
The company had a registered capital of US$1,000, with US$200 coming from Wu, which contravenes Article 13, Paragraph 1 of the Public Functionary Service Act, which bans civil servants from owning and investing in businesses, the report said.
Wu also encroached upon the university’s rights by applying for patents for its technology in the name of his company, it said.
During his term as university president, Wu approved a school budget to cover the expenses his company needed to apply for patents, the report said.
The university on March 15, 2016, wired NT$766,952 to the law firm WSGR without knowing that the patent application was to be submitted in the name of Wu’s company, it said.
This violated provisions on conflict of interest in the Public Functionary Service Act and the Act on the Recusal of Public Servants Due to Conflict of Interest, it said.
Wu yesterday denied any wrongdoing.
In April, Wu said that he had planned to return the patent rights to the university once the company obtained them in the US and China.
He also said that it is common practice for inventors to apply for patents for their inventions, then negotiate with their university on how to share the revenue.
Additional reporting by Ann Maxon
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