[Ip-health] Stat: Patent office reopens major CRISPR battle between Broad Institute and Univ. of California

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jun 26 01:56:27 PDT 2019


Patent office reopens major CRISPR battle between Broad Institute and Univ.
of California

JUNE 25, 2019

   - <https://www.statnews.com/2019/06/25/crispr-patents-interference/#>

The U.S. patent office has declared an interference
a dozen key patents awarded to the Broad Institute on the genome-editing
technology CRISPR and 10 CRISPR patent applications submitted by the
University of California and its partners, according to documents posted by
the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The declaration of an interference means that the patent office has
determined that one or more patent applications describe inventions that
are substantially the same as those for which patents have already been
issued. In this case, the patents awarded to the Broad, beginning in 2014,
describe the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to edit the genomes of eukaryotes —
organisms whose genomes are enclosed within a cell nucleus, including all
plants and animals — based on the research of Broad biologist Feng Zhang.
UC’s patent applications also cover the use of CRISPR in eukaryotes, based
on the work of UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna and her collaborator
Emmanuelle Charpentier.

UC and the Broad already went through an interference proceeding that went
all the way to federal appeals court, with the Broad prevailing

That history made patent experts react almost identically to this latest
development. “Here we are again,” said attorney Kevin Noonan of the Chicago
law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, who specializes in
biotech patents. “I can only imagine that this will go on, and on, and on.”

Both the Doudna and Zhang teams did their research under a system that
awarded patents based on who was the first to invent (the current system,
in place since 2013, awards patents based on who was the first to file).
The interference proceeding will entail motions filed with the patent
office, which will likely take a year, and then possibly a hearing. At some
point, the patent office will therefore have to determine who was the
inventor of CRISPR genome editing in higher organisms — not bacteria, and
not DNA floating freely in a test tube.

“Now we’re having the fight over who invented CRISPR in eukaryotes,” said
Eldora Ellison of Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox, who represents UC. The
declaration of interference, she said, “means that the patent office has
recognized that it has a duty to determine who invented this important
invention. The fact that the Broad has patents does not resolve that

The answer to that question would reverberate well beyond the potentially
billion-dollar market for CRISPR therapies. Those are being developed by at
least three companies, including Editas Medicine, CRISPR Therapeutics, and
Intellia Therapeutics. The outcome could also affect who the science record
books, to say nothing of the Nobel Prize committee, recognizes as the
inventors of this revolutionary technology.

In a statement, the Broad said, “We welcome this action by the [patent
office], which has previously ruled that the claims of the Broad patents,
issued for methods for eukaryotic genome editing, were properly granted.”

Unlike the last interference, which UC requested, neither party asked for
this one. But that can be done “indirectly,” Noonan said.

“The interesting thing in terms of the [University of California] strategy
is that they seem to have filed a bunch of patent applications intended to
provoke an interference,” by describing the use of CRISPR in eukaryotes
even though the UC team was not the first to achieve that, Noonan said.

“If you write the [patent] claim the right way, and the patent examiner is
aware that the Broad’s patents [on that invention] exist, it wouldn’t take
a genius examiner to say, aha,” he said.

The patent office has designated the Broad as the “senior party” in the
interference and UC as the “junior party.” That means the Broad, with
patents in hand since 2014, is presumed to be the rightful, first inventor.
UC therefore has to prove its case to the patent office.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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