Wicab, a Middleton medical device company, has filed suit against two of its former employees and the companies they are now involved with, claiming patent infringement.
Wicab’s device, the Brainport, translates digital information from a video camera into electrical stimulation patterns on the tongue’s surface. Clients use the patterns to distinguish nearby objects.
The Brainport is based on technology that Wicab says it licensed exclusively from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation in 1999. At first, Wicab used the Brainport to help patients with balance problems. More recently, its focus has been to help blind people “see.”
A lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Madison, claims that Yuri Danilov, Wicab’s director of clinical research since 2001, and Mitchell Tyler, director of academic research since 1998, left the company in 2007 and “embarked on a plan to profit off the work they had done at, and assigned to, Wicab.”
Wicab filed a patent application for the Brainport device in October 2007 for treating neurological impairment and for use by visually impaired people. Danilov and Tyler secretly filed for a patent on much the same technology in January 2008, and asked the U.S. Patent Office to keep its application private, the lawsuit says.
It says Danilov and Tyler formed a Madison company, Advanced NeuroRehabilitation, in 2009 and then entered into a joint venture to form a Pennsylvania company, NeuroHabiliation Corp., which signed a development agreement with the U.S. Defense Department in 2013, for improving movement control.
In June 2014, Helius Medical Technologies was formed in Vancouver, Canada, to buy NeuroHabiliation, the suit claims.
Wicab’s lawsuit accuses Danilov, Tyler and their companies of unfair competition, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, and “misappropriation/civil theft,” and seeks triple damages of an undetermined amount.
The case has been assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker.