(Reuters) – A U.S. tribunal overseeing patent disputes ruled on Monday that patents on the breakthrough gene-editing technology known as CRISPR belong to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision is a defeat for the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Vienna and Nobel Prize-winning researchers Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier.
Harvard’s and MIT’s Broad Institute, which obtained the first CRISPR patent in 2014 and later obtained related patents, said the decision confirmed its patents were properly issued.
CRISPR lets scientists edit genes by using biological “scissors” that can edit DNA.
The technology is being tested in clinical trials to potentially help cure diseases caused by genetic mutations and abnormalities.
Doudna of UC Berkeley and Charpentier of the University of Vienna had been first to seek a CRISPR patent in 2012. Eight years later they shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of a method for genome editing.”
Broad, however, said its 2014 patent was distinct from the earlier invention because it concerned the use of CRISPR in eukaryotic cells.
The tribunal said there was “no dispute” the California and Vienna schools first conceived of a CRISPR system, but they failed to demonstrate that they created a system that works with eukaryotic cells before Broad’s patented invention.
Monday’s decision can be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles patent cases. That court ruled for Broad in a related case in 2018.
In a statement, the University of California said it was reviewing “various options” to challenge Monday’s decision, and that along with its partners it owned more than 40 other CRISPR patents.
Editas Medicine Inc, which licenses CRISPR technology from the Broad Institute, said in a statement that the decision reaffirms the strength of the patents, which it uses to develop medicines for people with serious diseases.