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Federal Court Sides with Broad in CRISPR Patent Dispute

The higher court’s decision to uphold the ruling of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board essentially ends the intellectual property battle in the US.

Sep 10, 2018
Jef Akst

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The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided today (September 10) that the Broad Institute, MIT, and Harvard deserved critical patents on the genome editing technology CRISPR that the University of California, Berkeley, had challenged.

Specifically, the court affirms the decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in February 2017 that the Broad’s patents don’t step on CRISPR applications that researchers from Berkeley and the University of Vienna had filed patents for at an earlier date. That means that the Broad will continue to hold the intellectual property for the use of the CRISPR gene editing in eukaryotes—the most lucrative application of the technology.

“The PTAB decision, even if you don’t agree with its contents, it was still thorough and well-reasoned, and so there’s nothing for the federal circuit to do except affirm it,” says New York Law School’s Jake Sherkow, who has been following this case closely. “And that’s essentially what happened.”

See “CRISPR Patent Dispute Heard in Federal Court

The University of California could appeal to the US Supreme Court, but judges there are unlikely to take the case, STAT News reports. Charles Robinson from the Office of General Counsel at the University of California Office of the President says in a statement that the university is looking into “further litigation options.”

The Broad Institute, meanwhile, urges both parties to put this legal battle behind them. “It is time for all institutions to move beyond litigation,” the Broad Institute says in a statement sent to The Scientist. “We should work together to ensure wide, open access to this transformative technology.”

See “Flux and Uncertainty in the CRISPR Patent Landscape

Although the dispute seems settled in the US, the intellectual property battle for CRISPR continues in Europe, where the University of California, Berkeley, and the Broad Institute both have patents facing opposition from others who are trying to stake a claim on the technology. “There has been a significant number of granted patents in Europe to the foundational CRISPR-Cas9 technology, and the [European Patent Office] appear to be adopting a trend of allowing the grant of early patent applications in the field, knowing that these will be challenged post-grant through the opposition procedure,” says Catherine Coombes, a senior patent attorney with HGF Limited in the UK who represents some of the parties challenging these patents.

See “Berkeley CRISPR Inventors Get Another Important European Patent

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