FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Bones from two dinosaur specimens have prompted a federal lawsuit in a dispute between two organizations that preserve fossils.
The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported a South Dakota research company is suing a Montana nonprofit dedicated to the study of fossils over castings of bones from two tyrannosaurus-rex specimens discovered in South Dakota.
The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, S.D., argues that it lent two castings to Fort Peck Paleontology in Montana several years ago.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Mont., the institute claims Fort Peck Paleontology failed to return the castings and is using them to sell unauthorized copies of the bones.
"When they're using our labor to decrease the cost of their product, that's just not right," said Peter Larson, president of Black Hills Institute.
A phone number for Fort Peck Paleontology had been disconnected. E-mails sent by the Coloradoan to the company for comment were not returned.
The institute is being represented by Luke Santangelo, a Fort Collins, Colo., lawyer who specializes in intellectual property. The lawsuit seeks $8.2 million in damages.
The castings in dispute come from two well-known tyrannosaurus rex specimens, dubbed Stan and Sue. Replicas of the beasts are in museums, including the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and the Maryland Science Center.
The original Sue is a permanent feature at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, which bought the specimen at auction after an ownership dispute.
The newspaper said Black Hills Institute has copyrighted its castings. Santangelo said the lawsuit over dinosaur castings is the first of its kind.
Making a fossil casting requires a blend of scientific and artistic creativity, Santangelo told the newspaper.
A casting of Stan's skull is valued at about $10,000. The arm casting from Sue is worth several hundred dollars, Santangelo said.