A three-judge panel of the U.S.Patent Trial and Appeal Board has concluded that valuable patents on gene-editing technology are the property of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
The technology – CRISPR – is a unique mechanism for editing the genomes at the heart of every living plant, microbe, and animal.Scientists using CRISPR have already made strides in fighting diseases and making fundamental transformations in energy production and agriculture.
CRISPR was first developed by a pair of researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Vienna.In May 2012, The University of California filed a broad patent asserting ownership of the technology in all uses.
In April 2014, while the first application was still pending, the Broad Institute filed a somewhat narrower patent covering CRISPRs use in eukaryotic cells, which are the cells found in plants and animals.Because Broad paid for expedited review of its application, the patent was granted first.UC Berkeley filed suit in 2016, alleging that Broad's patents interfered with their earlier request.
On Wednesday, the judges ruled in favor of Broad, concluding that its technique was different from Berkeley's and could be patented without compromising the Berkeley patent.While the original researchers showed CRISPR's effectiveness in a test tube, Broad's technology works inside living cells.
UC Berkeley's patent application was put on hold during the litigation, but can now proceed.Berkeley expects the original patent will be granted – which could require researchers to pay to license the technology from both Berkeley and Broad in the future.