Govt plans court action against G-Pan inventor

(Trinidad Guardian) The government is taking legal action against G-pan inventor Professor Brian Copeland and three associates for profiting from sale of the G-Pan whose intellectual rights are owned by the government, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said on Friday. Former PNM culture minister Junia Regrello, who is listed as a director of Panadine Innovations company with Copeland, is also under scrutiny to ascertain if he remains a director of the company. Saying it was a “scandal of major proportions,” Ramlogan said:
“It is a breach of trust by Professor Copeland, I dare say, bordering on outright fraud on the people of T&T.
“We (taxpayers) are the ones who funded the research and development of this steelpan technology and for it to be claimed by anyone else is disingenuous and illegal,” he added.

The government is seeking to recover proceeds from sale of the G-Pan. Ramlogan sent a pre-action protocol letter to Copeland at his Cocoyea address yesterday. Copeland refused comment on Friday, saying he had nothing to say on the issue. He, however, said a response would come soon. Copeland is the holder of T&T’s highest honour—the Order of T&T—for the creation of the G-Pan. The pan is based on the concept of a tenor pan with a wider variety of notes. It was patented to secure its intellectual rights. Ramlogan said the market for the pan was big in China and Europe, and the government would work to tap into this, but was being prevented by the current situation. He said the government had spent $34.5 million to assist with the inventions by Copeland, including the Percussive Harmonia Instrument (PHI) pan, also at issue in the government’s claim against Copeland.

Ramlogan said it was intended that the intellectual rights concerning the pans would be owned by the people and this was noted in the minutes of the first Steelpan Initiative committee meeting of October 2005.
“(But) what has transpired since is a virtual scandal of major proportions,” Ramlogan added, noting a report on the issue from Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson. Findings reveal a prima facie case of breach of trust by Copeland, he added. He said instead of protecting the intellectual rights, Copeland sought to take away those rights by claiming personal ownership and seeking to personally benefit from the instrument.
This included profits of the PHI pan which was invented using state funds.  He said the PHI pan was not expressly assigned to the government, but this was being rectified. He said when the G-Pan was invented, Copeland registered it as being his own and had to then assign it as belonging to the government.

Ramlogan said he was advised that Copeland subsequently sold the G-Pan without the government’s permission and had not accounted for the proceeds of sales. “That money belongs to the people and government and therefore action is coming to retrieve those funds,” he added. Ramlogan said Copeland also breached public trust by registering himself together with Marcell Byron, Keith Maynard and Phillip Earl as owners of the property rights of the PHI pan. Ramlogan said Copeland “blatantly ignored” the terms of reference and claimed the ownership rights when he was supposed to protect the people’s rights in the issue. He said under sections (59 and 60) of the Patents Act, the government would now revoke the patent granted to Copeland and associates and act to secure T&T’s interest. He said Panadine’s Web site offered for sale a “product owned by the people.” But he said the company involving Copeland and Regrello had not filed company returns for some time.

On whether Regrello might be party to the proceedings, Ramlogan could not say. But if Regrello was still part of the company, he would be part of the upcoming legal action, he said. Given the “publicly close relationship between Copeland and former Prime Minister Patrick Manning,” Ramlogan said “it remains a mystery” why the previous administration did not attempt to stop the situation.  The government will seek disclosure of all agreements entered into by any company on the pans, all registration on intellectual property rights of both pans and identification of people registered as purported owners of the inventions.
The government will also seek accounts of all revenues or proceeds of sales from the pans and seek an injunction to halt the group from representing themselves as the owners of the pans. Ramlogan added an advisory might also be issued overseas via T&T diplomatic missions.

He said the situation was an affront to the labour of several university students who had also worked on creating the pan. He said it did not belong to any one man. The AG said there were two other probes into issues concerning the previous PNM administration.  Ramlogan’s aide Hansen Stewart also said Culture Minister Winston Peters had a statement to make on the issue.  Peters did not answer calls to his cellphone on Friday.

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