Broad Institute prevails over UC-Berkeley in patent battle

Heidi Ledford, Nature News, 15 February 2017 http://www.nature.com/news/broad-institute-wins-bitter-battle-over-crispr-patents-1.21502

The US patent office judges have ruled that the Broad Institutes and UC-Berkeley’s patents do not interfere, providing a win for the Broad.  This effectively allows both UC-Berkeley and the Broad to have patents covering portions of the CRISPR intellectual property landscape, possibly requiring companies to license patents from both institutions.  This decision may be appealed to the circuit courts by UC-Berkeley.

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The Patent Battle: Who is involved and how we got here

Jon Cohen, Science Magazine, 15 February 2017, http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/how-battle-lines-over-crispr-were-drawn

With the patent office’s announcement that UC-Berkeley’s and the Broad Institute’s patents do not interfere, the patent saga has reached a possible conclusion.  The complicated interference proceeding resulted from multiple researchers spread across the world publishing about the CRISPR/Cas system at relatively the same time along with the creation of multiple companies to investigate the systems usefulness in medicine and agriculture.  This article, published prior to the patents office decision in Science Magazine, breaks down the events leading up to the interference proceeding and how the lines were drawn.

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The CRISPR patent battle spans two continents

Isobel Finnie and Catherine Williamson, GEN Exclusives, 6 February 2017, http://www.genengnews.com/gen-exclusives/crispr-patent-wars/77900842

The CRISPR/Cas9 patent battle has been closely watched in the United States with a decision expected in the next few months. Less attention has been paid to the ongoing European patent battle.  Like in the US, both UC-Berkeley and The Broad Institute have submitted competing patent applications.  Currently the Broad Institute has received all granted patents over UC-Berkeley, however the Broad is facing challenges to these decisions.

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Patent licenses used to address ethics concerns

Guerrini, C. J. et. al. (2017) Nature Biotechnology. 35:22-24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28072792

While countries and institutions can be slow to adapt to new ethics concerns, patent holders have the ability to restrict use on new technology.  The Broad Institute has adopted this method to control uses of the CRISPR/Cas9 technology in licenses with both Monsanto and Editas Medicine.  Similarly, the creator of the CRISPR/Cas gene drive plans to use his patent to force full disclosure of methods and results from both academics and industry.  While the use of patents to limit ethics concerns is not without problems, it can allow time for larger ethics structures to be implemented.

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Editas licenses Cpf1

GEN News Highlights, 19 December 2016 http://www.genengnews.com/gen-news-highlights/editas-expands-crispr-capabilities-through-new-technology-licensing/81253581

Editas Medicine has been granted an exclusive license for the use of Cpf1 and other advanced Cas9 forms in relation to human therapies.  The Cpf1 intellectual property is owned by the Broad Institute and was initially discovered by Feng Zhang’s laboratory.  Cpf1 is distinct from Cas9 in terms of its protein structure and PAM requirements as well as being distinct intellectual property in relation to the current CRISPR patent battle.

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Broad Institute claims Feng Zhang conceptualized CRISPR system in 2011

Jef Akst, The Scientist, 12 December 2016 http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/47733/title/New-Developments-in-CRISPR-Patent-Case/

The Broad Institute has released documents claiming that Feng Zhang conceptualized using the CRISPR system in human and mouse cells in February 2011, well before Doudna’s 2012 Science paper.  While the documents cannot prove Zhang had any success with the system prior to Doudna’s paper, the timeline could be relevant if the courts rule that the Broad’s patent interferes with UC-Berkeley’s.

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Oral arguments heard in CRISPR patent dispute

Sharon Begley, STAT News, 6 December 2016 https://www.statnews.com/2016/12/06/crispr-court-hearing-broad-california/

On Tuesday, December 6, 2016 the first and only oral arguments were heard in the CRISPR patent dispute between the University of California-Berkeley and the Broad Institute.  During the hearing each side had 20 minutes to present their case, including questions from the three judge panel.  Initial impressions from the hearing give the Broad Institute the upper hand due to perceived lighter questioning of the Broad Institutes attorney. Furthermore, the judges appeared skeptical of UC-Berkeley’s claim that translation of CRISPR to eukaryotic cells was obvious and did not require special skill.

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One stop shopping for patent licenses

Staff Reporter, GenomeWeb, 6 December 2016 https://www.genomeweb.com/gene-silencinggene-editing/mpeg-la-pursue-all-one-crispr-license-solution

Licensing middleman MPEG LA is attempting to create a licensing pool for CRISPR patents.  MPEG LA bundles essential intellectual property into one license, streamlining the overall process.  The essential patents MPEG LA would need to acquire are currently in dispute, making it challenging to identify which patents will be required.

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Oral arguments in interference hearing to begin in December

Andrew Joseph, STAT News, 7 November 2016, https://www.statnews.com/2016/11/07/crispr-patent-case-oral-arguments/

December 6, 2016 will be the first time oral arguments are heard in the CRISPR patent case between the Broad Institute and UC-Berkeley.  Each party will have 20 minutes to present their case and 5 minutes to rebut the opposing side.  The three presiding judges will then be able to question both parties on the many filled motions.  The hearing will be open to the public.

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Update on the CRISPR patent dispute

Andrew P. Han, GenomeWeb, 28 October 2016, https://www.genomeweb.com/gene-silencinggene-editing/crispr-patent-interference-likely-heads-oral-arguments-over-preliminary

The final deadline for filing written arguments related to preliminary motions has passed in the CRISPR patent battle.  One of the motions filed by the Broad institute claims that their patents do not interfere with those filed by UC-Berkeley.  In turn, UC-Berkeley has countered that the Broad Institute’s use of a smaller Cas9 and nuclear localization signal was the next logical step and therefore not patentable.  Additionally, UC-Berkeley claims that the use of a single guide RNA is separate from the larger dispute.  Together these motions create the potential for both UC-Berkeley and the Broad Institute to walk away with pieces of the CRISPR intellectual property landscape.

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