Ding, ding, ding! CRISPR patent fight enters next round

Jul 26, 2017

By Jon Cohen

The University of California (UC) has fired another legal salvo in the prolonged patent battle over CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technology that has spawned a billion-dollar industry.

UC leads a group of litigants who contend that the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) wrongly sided with the Broad Institute in Camrbidge, Massachusetts, and two partners—Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge—in February when it ruled that the Broad group invented the use of CRISPR in eukaryotic cells. After that ruling, UC moved the battleground to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In a 25 July brief to the Federal Circuit, the UC group contends that PTAB “ignored key evidence” and “made multiple errors.”

The UC litigants indisputably first showed in 2012 that CRISPR could work in DNA of simpler organisms, and soon after filed a patent application on the gene-editing technique. They claim the Broad group learned from that disclosed invention and applied CRISPR to eukaryotic cells. The essential legal question is whether the Broad’s patent application is a novel, patentable invention, or whether it was “obvious” in the sense that “anyone skilled in the art”—in other words, any trained molecular biologist—would have a “reasonable expectation of success” of using the CRISPR system to edit genes in eukaryotic cells. 

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