United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
DAVID PRO'CTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendants The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama
(“UA”), Dr. Arunava Gupta (“Gupta”),
Dr. Takao Suzuki (“Suzuki”), and Dr. Patrick
LeClair (“LeClair” and collectively “the UA
Defendants”) (Doc. # 7) and the Motion to Dismiss filed
by Defendant Dr. Nian X. Sun (“Sun”) (Doc. # 10).
The parties have fully briefed the Motions. (Docs. # 7, 10,
12, 13, 14). For the reasons explained below, the court finds
that the UA Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 7) is
due to be granted in part and Sun's Motion to Dismiss
(Doc. # 10) is moot as Sun is due to be dismissed from this
Rule 12(b)(6) motion questions the legal sufficiency of a
complaint; therefore, in assessing the merit of a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, the court must assume that all the factual
allegations set forth in the complaint are true.”
Mays v. U.S. Postal Serv., 928 F.Supp. 1552, 1557-58
(M.D. Ala. 1996). Thus, for the purpose of resolving the
Motions to Dismiss (Docs. # 7, 10), the court treats the
facts alleged in the Amended Complaint (Doc. # 4) as true.
The court also liberally construes documents filed pro
se, such as Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. #
4). See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
The underlying facts of Plaintiff's claims are outline
August 2011, Plaintiff Ali Amiri (“Plaintiff” or
“Amiri”) began a PhD program in physics at UA.
(Doc. # 4 at ¶ 11). In February 2013, Amiri started his
dissertation research at the Center for Materials for
Information Technology (“MINT”). (Id. at
¶ 12). Gupta, who is the Associate Director of MINT,
served as Amiri's research advisor. (Id. at
¶¶ 3, 12). Starting in the spring of 2013, Amiri
and Gupta began having weekly meetings to discuss the
progress of Amiri's research. (Id. at ¶
29). In October 2014, LeClair began attending these meetings.
(Id.). The weekly meetings of Amiri, Gupta, and
LeClair continued through April 2017. (Id.).
Amiri's research, which focused on a new type of memory
technology, continued through June 2017. (Id. at
August 15, 2013, Gupta began collaborating with Sun, who is
the Director of the Advanced Materials and Microsystems
Laboratory (“AMML”) of Northeastern University,
on Amiri's research. (Id. at ¶¶ 4,
13). Afterwards, Amiri began communicating with Sun and
Tianxiang Nan (“Nan”) about his research.
(Id. at ¶ 14). Amiri alleges that Sun and Nan
published an article that was based on Amiri's research
and unsuccessfully attempted to repeat Amiri's work
without Amiri's permission and without acknowledging
Amiri in their paper. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-19).
He also appears to allege that Gupta shared his memory
technology designs and research with IBM without Amiri's
permission and that IBM filed patents on these designs.
(Id. at ¶¶ 20-27).
alleges that in the fall of 2015, he had enough credentials
to graduate from the PhD program. (Id. at ¶
28). However, when he asked Gupta if he could defend his
dissertation and graduate, Gupta explained that Amiri needed
to do more research. (Id.). According to Amiri, in
the fall of 2016, he attempted to get patent protection for
his memory device inventions, but Gupta and LeClair refused
to undergo the formal disclosure process in accordance with
UA's patent policy and limited Amiri's access to some
instruments. (Id. at ¶ 30). In October 2016,
Amiri contacted Dr. Luoheng Han (“Han”), UA's
Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, about his
disagreements with Gupta and LeClair. (Id. at ¶
31). After speaking with Gupta and LeClair, Han allegedly
refused to allow further investigation into Amiri's
complaint. (Id.). In January 2017, Amiri contacted
UA's Office for Technology Transfer (“OTT”)
to discuss possible patent protection for his invention.
(Id. at ¶ 32). Amiri and the OTT had at least
three meetings, but Amiri was unhappy with the outcome of
these meetings. (Id.).
March 10, 2017, Amiri met with Gupta, LeClair, and another UA
faculty member to inquire about ownership issues regarding
the intellectual property for the memory device.
(Id. at ¶ 33). Amiri did not receive an answer
as to whether Gupta and LeClair had any intellectual property
claims on the memory device. (Id. ¶ 36). On
April 21, 2017, Amiri reported a research misconduct
complaint to Vice President Carl Pinkert
(“Pinkert”). (Id. at ¶ 38). Pinkert
conducted a research misconduct investigation, and that
investigation continued through July 2017. (Id. at
¶¶ 39, 52). Amiri has not received a copy of the
investigation report. (Id. at ¶ 52). He alleges
that Suzuki, the Director of MINT, and LeClair tried to stop
the investigation. (Id. at ¶ 41). He also
alleges that, at some point in June 2017, LeClair falsified
Amiri's academic transcript by increasing Amiri's GPA
hours from 44 to 50 so that Amiri's GPA would decrease.
(Id. at ¶ 51).
17, 2017, Amiri emailed UA President Dr. Stuart Bell
(“Bell”), Suzuki, and LeClair to report that
somebody entered the lab in which he worked and
“manipulated the research samples.” (Id.
at ¶ 40). In response to Amiri's email, LeClair
explained that Amiri is not (and has never been) the sole
user of the lab, the labs are shared amongst students, and
there was no intruder in the lab. (Docs. # 7 at p. 6-7; 7-1 at
p. 2; 12 at p. 33). LeClair also stated that he no longer
considered Amiri to be a member of the research team because
Amiri was not sharing data with the team or informing them of
his progress and requested that Amiri return his laboratory
keys and cease his activities in the labs and any MINT
LeClair's email, on June 20, 2017, Suzuki emailed Amiri
an attached letter stating that Amiri was no longer a MINT
student. (Docs. # 7-2 at p. 2; 12 at p. 34-36). The
letter also included a list of keys that had been provided to
Amiri which he was asked to return no later than June 23,
2017. (Id. at p. 2-3). Amiri alleges that, on June
26, 2017, UA police came to Amiri's residence based on
the document created by Suzuki but without a court order or
search warrant. (Doc. # 4 at ¶ 42). The police officers
purportedly demanded that Amiri turn over his keys to the
labs and told Amiri not to return to MINT facilities.
(Id. at ¶ 43). Amiri gave the officers the keys
and asked them to “stand guard in front of [a
desiccator].” (Id. at ¶¶ 43, 45).
Amiri alleges that “another unlawful police operation
was conducted by” UA police on June 30, 2017, but he
does not explain what the “unlawful police
operation” was. (Id. at ¶ 46). He only
states that a police officer told him that Amiri had
“been requested to leave.” (Id.).
29, 2018, the Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate
School sent Amiri a letter stating that the Graduate School
received a notification that he had been dismissed from the
Doctor of Science in Physics program and that, based on the
scholastic requirements of the Graduate catalog, he was
suspended form the Graduate School. (Id.at
¶¶ 48-49, p. 36). The letter also directed Amiri to
the process for readmission. (Id.). Amiri alleges
that he had not previously received a letter or email from
the Department of Physics informing him of his dismissal and
that he did not receive a hearing regarding his dismissal.
(Id. at ¶ 50).
August 7, 2017, UA released the ownership of all rights
associated with the memory device to Amiri. (Id. at
¶ 56). Since UA's release of this device, Amiri has
filed three patents related to the memory device.
(Id. at ¶¶ 57, 63). Amiri also alleges
that in September 2017 Gupta, in collaboration with the other
members of the conspiracy group, broke into Amiri's
locker and stole eight notebooks, about two hundred pages of
designs and calculations, and two flash memories.
(Id. at ¶ 58). Amiri states that he reported
this alleged theft to the FBI. (Id. at ¶ 59).
He also states that he has written to and spoken with various
FBI agents, senators, and congressmen about his concerns.
(Id. at ¶¶ 60-62, 66-68).
filed his initial Complaint along with an application to
proceed in forma pauperis on March 19,
2018. (Docs. # 1, 2). On March 21, 2018, the court granted
Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma
pauperis and directed Plaintiff to file an Amended
Complaint. (Doc. # 3). Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint
on April 11, 2018. (Doc. # 4). The UA Defendants filed a
motion to dismiss on May 24, 2018, and Defendant Sun, who is
proceeding pro se, filed a separate motion to
dismiss on May 29, 2018. (Docs. # 7, 10).
The Documents Defendants Attached to their Motion to Dismiss
Are Central toPlaintiff& ...