Broad Inst. Inc. v. Regents of the Bd. of the Univ. of Cal: PTO to Decide CRISPR Gene Editing Ownership

Jeffrey Simon, MJLST Staffer

The Broad Institute and the University of California will argue claims related to ownership on Patents relating to CRISPR (clustered regular interspaced short palindromic repeats) gene editing technologies. The arguments will be heard on Dec, 6 by the Patent Trial and Appeals Board.

CRISPR technology utilizes prokaryotic DNA segments to confer immunity to foreign genetic elements. CRISPR editing technology has the potential to alter human DNA sequences by removing existing genes or inserting new ones. Moving forward, CRISPR technology has the potential to develop into a form of gene therapy, whereby the human genome can be edited to fortify one’s immune system against infectious diseases or other hereditary issues. CRISPR technology raises ethical concerns, especially relating to the potential use in altering the genes of human embryos.

Although CRISPR technology has been understood for over a decade, the current case revolves around an improvement using cas9 protein that splices DNA at a specific locus. The Broad Institute asserts that patents filed on behalf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University Researchers (Broad Institute being the eventual assignee of the patents) maintain priority over those owned by University of California. However, the relevant patents have been asserted pre-AIA. Therefore, priority date will be established by date of the invention rather than under the AIA standard of application date. The Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) initially maintained that the date of invention was properly asserted prior to the patents upon which the challenge was brought. If the decision of the PTAB is upheld, the University of California patents will invalidate the patents held by MIT and Harvard. It’s important to note that both parties are asserting priority date to a previous University of California patent relating to CRISPR technology. The PTAB may determine that both parties failed to prove priority date ahead of the US Patent Application No. 13/842,859, thus invalidating both parties claims.

The Broad Institute is a research institute associated with MIT and Harvard University. It’s unclear how the decision will affect CRISPR technology moving forward. CRISPR technology has attracted lucrative investments from government agencies and private entities alike. Additionally, since the initial patenting of CRISPR, University of California has licensed out the use of CRISPR technology to numerous firms interested in its applications.