Broad Institute to keep CRISPR patent after court overrules UC Berkeley's appeal

Jessica Kim Cohen - Print  | 

A federal appeals court upheld a CRISPR patent awarded to the Cambridge, Mass.-based Broad Institute in a unanimous decision Sept. 10, STAT reports.

The decision may mark the end of a yearslong legal battle between the Broad Institute and UC Berkeley, which contests which researchers own the rights to CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. The dispute has roots tracing back as early as 2012.

Here are six things to know about the court's decision:

1. The patent in question, filed in December 2012 and awarded to the Broad Institute in 2014, covers a method of editing plant and animal DNA using CRISPR-Cas9.

2. UC Berkeley contested the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's decision to grant the Broad Institute the patent in 2014, arguing the institute's application was too similar to a patent application UC Berkeley had applied for in May 2012, which covered the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to edit genes in various types of cells.

3. In February 2017, the USPTO ruled in favor of the Broad Institute, upholding the institute's patent on editing DNA in plants and animals. In its decision, the USPTO said the Broad Institute's discovery was not an "obvious" extension of the research at UC Berkeley.

The research team at UC Berkeley appealed the February 2017 decision — this appeal is what the federal appeals court struck down Sept. 10, allowing the Broad Institute to keep its patents.

4. The central issue the appeals court was tasked with teasing apart was whether the patent board based its February 2017 decision on "substantial evidence," according to STAT. The appeals court ruled there was substantial evidence, both for the claim the Broad Institute's patents did not overlap with UC Berkeley's and for the claim they were not an obvious extension of UC Berkeley's work.

5. In a statement emailed to Becker's Hospital Review, Charles Robinson, office of general counsel at the University of California's office of the president, said:

"The Court of Appeals today concluded that the use of CRISPR-Cas9 in plant and animal cells is separately patentable from Drs. Doudna and Charpentier's [the scientists who led UC Berkeley's CRISPR research] invention of use of CRISPR-Cas9 in any environment. We are evaluating further litigation options. We also look forward to proving that Drs. Doudna and Charpentier first invented usage in plant and animal cells — a fact that is already widely recognized by the global scientific community — as the Doudna-Charpentier team's several pending patent applications that cover use of CRISPR-Cas9 in plant and animal cells are now under examination by the patent office."

6. In a statement to STAT, the Broad Institute called the appeals court decision "correct" and wrote it is "time for all institutions to move beyond litigation. We should work together to ensure wide, open access to this transformative technology."

To learn more about the patent dispute, click here.

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