Appeals court hands Broad Institute a win in CRISPR patent feud

The Broad Institute
While the U.S. patent fight between the Broad Institute and the University of California is essentially laid to rest, the pair continue to duke it out in Europe. (ערן/CC BY-SA 4.0)

A federal appeals court handed the Broad Institute a win in a yearslong dispute Monday when it found there was “no interference-in-fact" between CRISPR patents held by the Broad and patents sought by the University of California (UC). 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed (PDF) the decision of a U.S. patent board in 2017 that Broad’s patents did not “interfere” with those applied for by UC, which appealed that decision. While the duo continues their fight in Europe, the decision puts an end to the patent battle stateside. 

In its appeal, UC argued that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board “improperly adopted a rigid test” and “erred in dismissing evidence of simultaneous invention as irrelevant” while making its decision.

Judge Kimberly Moore wrote in her opinion that the board “did not err in its analysis,” making it unlikely that UC will get another shot, either in a rehearing with the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or in an appeal to the Supreme Court. 

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The Broad patents relate to the use of CRISPR-Cas9 in the cells of humans and other eukaryotes, while the UC patents concern use of the gene-editing technology more generally.

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UC argued use in eukaryotes was an obvious extrapolation of its work. The board disagreed, saying that Broad’s invention of CRISPR systems in eukaryotic cells would not have been obvious over CRISPR systems developed in vitro and in bacteria. 

“[One] of ordinary skill in the art would not have reasonably expected a CRISPR-Cas9 system to be successful in a eukaryotic environment,” the board wrote.

Editas Medicines, which licenses its CRISPR technology from the Broad, saw its stock jump 30% on news of the patent board‘s decision. 

This time around, Editas’ stock ticked up slightly, while CRISPR Therapeutics and Intellia, which license theirs from UC and Emanuelle Charpentier, saw theirs rise and then dip before creeping back up to the price at previous close. 

As for the Broad and UC’s fight across the pond, Broad is appealing the January decision by the European Patent Office to revoke one of its patents due to lack of novelty.