USPTO restarts CRISPR Patent dispute between broad and UC
The US patent office declares an interference between the intellectual property held by the Broad Institute and several patent applications filed by the University of California – opposite its previous ruling. The legal battle over the intellectual property surrounding CRISPR gene editing technology is not over. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled last September that patents held by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University were not in conflict with previously submitted patents from the University of California (UC), Berkeley. But the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has now posted documents declaring interference between them—meaning they may cover overlapping IP.
"Certainly, this new patent interference in the US adds to the complexity of the landscape," Catherine Coombes, a patent director with HGF Limited in the UK who represents CRISPR patent holders in Europe, writes in an email to The Scientist.
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Surprise patent ruling revives high-stakes dispute over the genome editor CRISPR
The high-profile patent fight over who invented a key feature of the genome editor CRISPR has been resurrected. The 3-year-old battle, which a U.S. appeals court appeared to have put to rest in September 2018, pits parties represented by the University of California (UC) against the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts. It revolves around the use of CRISPR, originally derived from a DNA-cutting system used by bacteria, in the more complex cells of eukaryotes, which includes humans, making the contested patents key to the potentially lucrative development of novel medicines.
Catherine Coombes, a patent attorney at HGF in York, U.K., who does not represent Broad or UC but is involved in CRISPR patents, says the new interference "adds to the complexity of the landscape." The European Patent Office has grated "overlapping rights" to both groups and others who have filed CRISPR patent applications, anticipating that legal fights will occur later. "For human therapeutics, it is still too early to know where the key patents will lie," Coombes says, noting that different enzymes used in various CRISPR systems ultimately may make one invention safer or more effective than another.
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