CRISPR/Cas9 Patent Dispute
While the past year has been eventful in the CRISPR/Cas9 patent dispute, the question still remains as to whether the Broad Institute or UC Berkeley will secure rights to the use of the technology in eukaryotic systems. Just as the US situation was seemingly resolved in favour of the Broad Institute, the US Patent and Trade Mark Office has raised a new interference between the parties. The European position is no clearer, with both parties scheduled for hearings before the European Patent Office early in the new year; Broad’s appeal against the Opposition Division’s decision to revoke its European patent being heard in January while UC Berkeley’s defence against opposition to its European patent is scheduled for February. Technologists wishing to utilise the CRISPR/Cas9 system in eukaryotes are still in a quandary as to what licences they should seek from which party.
Users of the patent system often bemoan the fact that nothing moves very quickly in the world of patents. However, looking back on the CRISPR/Cas9 IP situation, there have been some unforeseen developments during the past 12 months, particularly in the USA where the USPTO has raised a new interference between UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute, having previously ruled in favour of Broad. This new interference seems to focus on which party was the first to develop CRISPR/Cas9 for use in eukaryotic systems. Elsewhere, in Europe, Broad faces a significant challenge in reversing the Opposition Division’s decision to revoke its European patent (EP2771468) in an appeal hearing scheduled 13-17 January, while UC Berkeley must defend its European patent (EP2800811) before the Opposition Division in early February. While both parties face uphill struggles maintaining their patents, the challenge before Broad in changing the European Patent Office’s position on right to priority looks insurmountable.
Could it be that the tide is turning in UC Berkeley’s favour and that a year from now it will be the dominant IP player in the CRISPR/Cas9 eukaryotic field? Or is this simply another chapter in the ongoing saga between the parties which will take many years to resolve? Only time will tell…..