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Finance Ministry Accountant General Yaron Zelekha announced an unprecedented, three-month campaign yesterday, in which employees of the state and government ministries are being called on to report stolen intellectual property such as patents, copyrights, commercial secrets and investigations. According to the announcement, no legal steps will taken for the duration of the campaign.

The law requires state employees to report intellectual property acquired in the course of their work, and these are to be registered to the state. This is the first time that the state has undertaken a campaign to regain stolen property, as is often done in IDF units.

The campaign includes all government authorities, but was instigated following an audit report submitted to the accountant general, which revealed suspicions that violations of intellectual property laws are widespread in state hospitals.

The report, publicized now for the first time, raises suspicions that senior physicians, including department heads, a senior officer in the Ministry of Health and high ranking personnel in academic research areas have registered medical patents in Israel or overseas on intellectual property acquired in their research work in state hospitals.

The intellectual property was allegedly illegally registered by the doctors (or family members, or commercial companies in which the physicians are shareholders) in contravention of the law, concealing the legal owners of the patent - the state, state hospitals or health corporations operating within the hospitals.

Zelekha's announcement of the campaign was distributed yesterday to all CEOs, comptrollers and legal advisors of all government ministries and government auxiliary units. According to assessments, many state employees do not report intellectual property created in the course of their work in government service to the authorities, and do not register ownership by the state as required by the law.

The state has no data on the prevalence of such occurrences, but the office of the accountant general assesses that the phenomenon is widespread, and the accumulated damage to the state (both actual and potential) is estimated by the treasury in the tens of millions of shekels at least.

These serious findings were discovered in an audit conducted in 2006 on four state hospitals.

The accountancy firm which conducted a sample survey of 10 state hospital physicians who had registered medical patents in Israel or overseas.

The findings include a case of a senior surgeon who was found to have submitted a request to personally register a patent on surgical medical equipment in Israel, and another surgeon who had registered a patent for a therapeutic method through a company in which he is a shareholder.

Preparation of the report included discussions with employees in the Patent Office of the Justice Ministry, and a review of official data banks in Israeli and U.S. patent offices and state hospitals.