A civil suit has been filed by the Technion Israel Institute of Technology against one of its faculty members, accusing him of establishing a zero knowledge proof technology company for which he used institute’s resources, reported Calcalist (local media outlet) on 22 April 2019.
Prof Eli Ben-Sasson was accused of violating the institute’s intellectual property rules. The suit has been filed with the Haifa District Court. According to the lawsuit, a company called Starkware was founded by Ben-Sasson in collaboration with a doctoral student, studying at the Technion. Ben-Sasson allegedly used intellectual property which was developed using “grants received at Technion”.
Starkware is aiming at improving the scalability of blockchains by utilizing zero knowledge proof technology. The Technion has claimed that Ben-Sasson created the zero-knowledge protocol STARK using millions of shekels granted to him by the institute.
Moreover, Ben-Sasson tried to commercialize the knowledge by establishing Starkware in order to dispossess the institute of its intellectual property rights, maintained the lawsuit. Therefore, the Technion has requested the court to transfer half of the Ben Sasson’s shares in Starkware to the institute.
According to the reports, Starkware has defended itself by stating that the company has no intention to use an invention belonging to the institution. Moreover, Starkware Industries utilized its own funds to hire workers and developed the required software and intellectual property. Hence, the Technion has no right to the company’s or Prof. Sasson’s shares.
In October 2018, USD 30 million was raised by Starkware in a financing round. Reportedly, it secured funds from companies such as Sequoia, Semantic Ventures, Intel Capital, Atomico and Multicoin Capital. Moreover, a seed funding round of USD 6 million was completed in May in which NEO’s Da Hongfei, Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin and Bitmain reportedly participated.
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