UC Berkeley Should Get CRISPR Broad Patent, European Patent Office Suggests


Last week, the European Patent Office (EPO) announced that it has given the University of California (UC) its "intention to grant a patent." This is for its broad-based claims about CRISPR, the genome-editing tool.

Earlier this year, three judges, who were from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, have ruled that patents on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology belong to the Broad Institute of Harvard University and MIT. It was first developed by UC Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, who was with the University of Vienna at the time.

UC Berkeley filed a patent in May 2012 for ownership of the technology. This includes ownership of its uses in all types of cells.

In Apr. 2014, the Broad Institute filed the same request. By then, the office had not ruled out the application yet. The institute's application, on the other hand, focused on eukaryotic cells, which include plant, animal and human cells.

Broad Institute paid for expedited review and received the patent. This led to UC Berkeley filing a suit against the institute last year, with claims that the patents with Broad "interfered" with their original request.

Science Magazine reported that EPO has currently favored the UC argument that its findings cover CRISPR use in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems. Some believe that Broad Institute will most likely contest the European Patent Office's decision.

The publication also noted that it is unclear if the EPO's announcement will have immediate impact. Companies are already paying fees to the parties or their affiliates to license CRISPR patents.

Jennifer Doudna, a Howard Hughes Medical investigator at UC Berkeley, expressed her excitement in a statement in the university's official website. She added that she, Emmanuelle Charpentier and the rest of their team look forward to the continued applications of gene-editing technology to solve issues surrounding human health and agriculture.

EPO and the U.K. Intellectual Property Office's grant are precedents for the UC researchers to receive wide-ranging patents in several countries. This is because a lot of institutions go to the two agencies for guidance in granting patents.

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