By Henry Samuel in Paris
Last Updated: 3:58PM GMT 09 Mar 2009
Prof Luc Montagnier is locked in a legal battle with inventor Bruno Robert over the intellectual property rights to a technique whereby the Aids virus and other serious ailments, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, can be pinpointed by their electromagnetic "signatures".
The hope is that once identified, the diseases can be blocked or neutralised with an opposite electromagnetic signal.
Mr Robert, 47, approached Mr Montagnier in May 2005 with his work on electromagnetic waves. In November of that year, Mr Bruno registered a patent for the process of homing in on a "biochemical element presenting a biological activity through the analysis of low-frequency electromagnetic signals." A month later, France's patents body, Inpi, was surprised to a request for the very same patent from Prof Montagnier.
Last Tuesday, Prof Montaignier took Mr Bruno to court, claiming the intellectual property rights over the discovery. The verdict is due on 20 May.
Mr Bruno's lawyer alleged in Le Journal du Dimanche that Prof Montagnier had already admitted that he had not come up with the discovery, as he had signed a contract to use Mr Bruno's technique in 2005 in exchange for 100,000 euros per year over a five-year period. Mr Bruno never received any payment. Prof Montagnier's lawyer said the pair had only signed a "protocol agreement" which was not legally binding.
Prof Montagnier was awarded a Nobel prize last year for discovering the virus that leads to Aids along with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. A third researcher, Jean-Claude Chermann received no award despite being hailed by peers as a key driving force in the lab.
Prof Chermann accused his former colleague of squeezing him out by intense lobbying. "Frankly, Montagnier, everyone laughs about him," he told Le Monde. "He followed communication lessons, cut his moustache, put on a little waistcoat...He played the mandarin like hell. I, for one am not a (re)searcher, I'm a finder," he said.