CRISPR patent ruling leaves license holders scrambling

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Science  24 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6327, pp. 786
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6327.786

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In the patent battle royale over CRISPR, the revolutionary genome-editing tool, the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 15 February won a critical round in its ongoing fight with the University of California (UC). But the UC researchers and their affiliated companies attempted to spin their defeat at the appeal board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a victory of sorts as they now can pursue the issue of their CRISPR, which has been on hold since the “interference” proceedings against Broad began. At issue is whether Broad piggybacked on UC’s inventions when its researchers showed that CRISPR worked in human cells, which is critical for making new medicines. The appeal board said no, dismissing UC’s interference complaint. But the board did not rule on the actual claims made by each party, which leaves open the confusing possibility that UC will hold a patent for use of CRISPR in any type of cell and Broad will own the intellectual property to eukaryotic cells alone. Any way about it, companies that have licensed the technology are scrambling to figure out whom they have to pay fees to, and the uncertainly likely will continue unless UC and Broad can agree on a “cross-licensing” settlement that, in effect, shares the patent revenues. Patent experts continue to criticize the institutions for not striking a deal, and they also anticipate that there’s more litigation to come.