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Judge close to NeuronZ stays on

By Jock Anderson

Friday 31st May 2002

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Justice Hugh Williams
The High Court judge sitting on the censored NeuronZ intellectual property case is a pal of investors in the high-profile Auckland university biotech venture.

According to a source close to the case, Justice Hugh Williams (62), a former Massey University chancellor, is a close friend of NeuronZ investor Jenny Gibbs and her former husband, Alan.

The National Business Review first revealed some of the NeuronZ shareholders on March 28, after obtaining them from publicly available Companies Office files.

After seeing Mrs Gibbs' name in NBR the judge thought about pulling out of the case but decided against it, ruling that the shareholding details published by NBR were irrelevant.

He decided yesterday not to disqualify himself from hearing the substantive intellectual property ownership case involving NeuronZ later this year but he will review his position if the issue gets difficult.

Mrs Gibbs is one of a number of prominent venture capitalists - including NeuronZ chairman Robin Congreve, Geoff Ricketts, Chris Mace, Roderick Deane, Stephen Tindall and the Todd Family - who have money in NeuronZ.

Justice Williams banned all media coverage of a related contempt of court action argued before him in Auckland High Court in March.

Before then even the names of the parties were suppressed.

At the time Justice Williams rejected a bid by NBR to report the contempt case and to have access to evidence.

Justice Williams last week found overwhelmingly in favour of NeuronZ in the contempt of court action against Lloyd and Fern Tran, fining the couple a total of $20,000 and ordering them to pay what are expected to be substantial costs.

With the exception of the censoring of what was considered sensitive scientific and intellectual material, Justice Williams released a detailed 46-page judgment on the contempt issue.

Mr Tran and his company Clinical Research Management are involved with NeuronZ in complex legal claims over intellectual property rights to chemical compounds linked to possible breakthroughs in the treatment of brain damage, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

A substantive action has yet to be heard.

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