To Top

Unilever Stole This Product Idea from a Scientist, 13 Years Later Justice Has Been Served

Waging a legal war against a corporate giant is no easy feat but it is a battle worth fighting for, especially when there is grave injustice involved. Take a look at Professor Ian Shanks, who had fought long and hard for 13 years over a creation that is now widely used but was never credited to him. Finally, justice was served after the United Kingdom’s highest court ordered Unilever to pay him over $2.5 million.

From a Toy and Plastic Film

The 71-year-old invented the electrochemical capillary device in 1982, only using his daughter’s glass slide from a toy microscope, plastic film, and bulldog clips. At the time, the scientist was working under a subsidiary of Unilever and it was the newest LCD technology that prompted the development of the capillary device. Ian was particularly drawn to making something that could measure blood glucose levels, which would later become one of the most crucial inventions for diabetes patients.

Ian Shanks’ invention is now used with glucose monitoring tech

He took the invention to his boss, who then said that the company already owned it. Later, Unilever patented the device and started selling the technology to other brands in the 1990s. The technology found its way into many glucose testing devices widespread nowadays, which are mostly used by people with diabetes to monitor their glucose levels.

After more than a decade, the Supreme Court finally awarded the professor what was rightfully his. Ian first came out in 2006, accusing the giant company of making millions from his creation without giving him any credit or monetary compensation. However, he had previously lost the case and had to refile his complaint.

Right to a Fair Share

Thankfully, this time the court unanimously favored with Ian recently, explaining that the invention indeed had given Unilever outstanding benefits, ordering the company to justly compensate its creator.

Judge Lord Kitchin said that the giant company enjoyed significant rewards and tons of money from the creation that the inventor should be entitled to a fair share.

The judge further explained that Unilever received about $30 million from patents, while Ian wasn’t given a single penny. Despite agreeing that the rights to the creation were owned by the mammoth brand, the court said Ian deserves to get his reward.

Unilever was not happy with the decision

Unsurprisingly, Unilever was not happy with the decision. A spokesperson argued that they were disappointed because of the overturn of the past judgments and that the scientist was awarded a portion of the license revenue on top of his bonus, salary, and benefits when he was still an employee, working for the company’s R&D department.

Bumpy Road

The road to winning this battle was not without bumps. In 2007, Ian survived a heart attack and add to that the stress the legal fight was giving him. Despite the stumble, he persisted because he was driven to help other investors. Regarding his compensation, most of it would go to legal expenses, nevertheless, he was still happy that the bout is finally over.

The inventor suffered a heart attack a year after he applied for compensation

In his argument, the scientist said that Uniliver had violated the Patents Act that was introduced 30 years ago. Under this law, employees who created a product for their companies are entitled to a fair share as long as the company enjoyed an outstanding benefit from the invention.

More in Criminal Attorney