Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam has hired the Salt Lake law firm of Giauque, Williams, Wilcox and Bendinger to help the University of Utah patent the rights to nuclear fusion.

Officials in Van Dam's office declined to say how much they have agreed to pay the law firm, saying such information would have to be released by the attorney general, who was not immediately available.The law firm was recognized in 1984 as one of the top 20 in the nation dealing with patent issues. A second firm soon will be hired to handle international patent issues, officials said.

University officials already have applied for several national patents on the process they contend is a cold nuclear fusion reaction.