Broad Institute wins court battle with UC Berkeley over CRISPR patents

A U.S Patent Office appeal board ruled the gene editing techniques of Broad Institute’s patents and UC Berkeley’s patent application were distinctly different.
By Jessica Davis
12:11 PM

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard won its contentious CRISPR-Cas9 patent battle with the University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday.

A U.S. Patent Office appeal board upheld the series patents held by Broad Institute for its gene editing technique and entered a judgement of "no interference-in fact" that neither cancels or refutes either parties' claims and means the two inventions are distinctly different from each other.

UC Berkeley brought the case against Broad Institute in Jan. 2016, challenging the intellectual rights over patents held by Broad Institute for the gene-editing technology. While Broad was first awarded patents for the technology, UC Berkeley claimed it was first to apply for the patent. Further, it asserted it invented the technology.

In 2012, UC Berkeley biochemist Jennifer Doudna and collaborator Emmanuel Charpentier first published results of a gene-editing system able to accurately cut DNA in a test tube. While in January 2013, Broad Institute’s Feng Zhang published how a similar system could work in plant, animal and human cells.

With the ruling, Broad will be able to keep its patents that will allow CRISPR technology to be used in humans and animals. UC Berkeley’s Doudna/Charpentier patent application will be returned to the patent examiner, which previous determined the patent application allowable.

UC officials said it respects the decision made by the court, but said it "maintains that using the CRISPR-Cas9 system in eukaryotic cells is not separately patentable from using the system in other cell types, and for that reason disagrees with the (court’s) decision."

Further, the research team lead by Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier "invented the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology that has been rightfully hailed as the scientific breakthrough of the century," UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

"We are pleased that today’s ruling affirms the spectacular accomplishments of these two scientists and their research teams and highlights the incomparable value of basic research at our public research universities and scientific institutions," she added.

UC will continue to look into other options in moving forward, which may include other legal battles to Broad’s patents and potentially an appeal of the decision, UC officials said.

Broad Institute may face other legal challenges in the future, as Rockefeller University claimed it helped invent CRISPR, but was left off the patents.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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