The Broad takes a hit during patent war on CRISPR gene-editing technology in Europe


The CRISPR system has been recently used to perform targeted gene editing with great accuracy. CRISPR is thought to provide an exquisite tool for engineering the “perfect human”, through manipulation of the germ line. CRISPR acts as molecular scissors, enabling to cut and replace DNA parts in an organism’s genome.


Two parties have been struggling to get ownership of the technology, which is potentially worth billions, through patents both in the US and in Europe.


In the US, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University (Broad) has so far prevailed in a dispute against University of California (UC) Berkeley. After interference procedures, the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled last year that although the team led by UC Berkeley structural biologist Jennifer Doudna had first laid claim to the use of CRISPR to cut DNA in a test tube, the use of the method on human cells by Zhang’s team at the Broad was still an advance.


In Europe, however, the Broad has been less fortunate.


A dispute between the Broad and the Rockefeller University concerning who should be named as inventors led to the exclusion of an inventor (Luciano Marraffini from the Rockefeller University) on later filed European patent applications. Nevertheless, in order to show that its claims predate competing publications and patent filings from UC Berkley and other groups, the Broad invokes priority of US patents where Marraffini is named as inventor.


Marraffini’s rights to the priority applications were however not properly transferred to the remaining applicants of the European application, resulting finally in an invalid priority claim and revocation of the entire European patent.


The revoked patent is the first opposition procedure heard in Europe, however many of Broad’s patents - and by extension many other European patents that rely on US provisional applications - have been challenged through oppositions and several of them might be facing the same priority issue. The Broad Institute has already announced that it will appeal the decision of the European Patent Division.


Click here for our previous article on CRISPR. 




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