Judge rules CRISPR-Cas9 patents belong to Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

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Following a high-profile and very heated court hearing over ownership of the patents for gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9, judges at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled today that the technology belongs to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, not the University of California Berkeley, STAT News first reported.

This is a big blow to UC Berkeley, as this technology is worth potentially billions or even trillions of dollars, TechCrunch’s Sarah Buhr previously noted. That’s because CRISPR-Cas9 is perhaps the most important breakthrough in biotech of our time.

CRISPR’s promise is huge. The technology could potentially change humanity’s genetic code, as well as produce new types of treatments and even cure diseases.

In a one-sentence ruling, the judges said, “In light of the determination that the parties’ claims do not interfere (see Decision on Motions, Paper 893), we enter judgment of no interference-in-fact, which neither cancels nor finally refuses either parties’ claims.”

That means the main U.S. patents around CRISPR, which were awarded to the Broad Institute, are different enough from the patents UC Berkeley applied for. The ruling suggests that Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier’s work at UC Berkeley was not distinct enough.

The Broad Institute agrees with the decision, which determined that its patents and applications are different from UC Berkeley’s, and do not interfere with the others, according to a statement the institute released earlier today.

While UC Berkeley “respects” the decision, it ultimately disagrees with the ruling.

“The PTAB decision does, however, leave in place patents previously issued to the Broad Institute for use of CRISPR-Cas9 in human and other “eukaryotic” cells,” UC Berkeley’s Public Affairs wrote in a blog post today. “The University of California and its co-owners maintain 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 PTAB’s decision. As such, the university and its co-owners will be considering all possible options for moving forward in the current legal dispute, including other legal challenges to the Broad Institute’s patents and the possibility of appealing the PTAB’s decision.”