New CRISPR Patent Issued

Caribou Biosciences receives a patent related to the gene-editing technology.

Feb 18, 2016
Jef Akst

FLICKR, KAZUHISA OTSUBOWhen it comes to CRIPSR, a new patent is big news. The technology has been at the center of an intellectual property battle since the natural process was first harness as a research tool. Just last month, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) declared “interference” between a patent issued to Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute and MIT and an application filed by Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and collaborators. This week (February 16), the CRISPR intellectual property (IP) landscape changed again, when the USPTO issued a patent to Caribou Biosciences, a company cofounded by Doudna.

“It’s significant—and the meaning of it is still unclear,” Jacob Sherkow, an associate law professor who specializes in biotechnology and IP at New York Law School, told BuzzFeed News. It could mean that the ongoing interference evaluation will not be the end of the CRISPR patent dispute, he added. “Even if Doudna loses, they’re still going to have patents like these or this one out there. They may be able to use these to block Zhang and Editas [a company that is currently licensing Zhang’s patent] from using some techniques, it’s possible.”

The new patent seems to cover specific CRISPR editing methods, Dan Burk, a law professor at University of California, Irvine School of Law, told BuzzFeed. “Any new technology is going to have multiple inventions associated with it,” he said. “If you can find substitutes that aren’t covered by this patent, the patent turns out to not be very powerful or useful. But if this is the best way or the only way, it could be quite important.”