One of the most intense and interesting disputes in the world of industrial property and in particular of patents is that between the institutions and inventors of the gene editing technology known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats).
Thus, the University of California, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have been engaged for years in disputes over the exclusive rights of this technology that is defining the new frontier of biomedicine, whose potential market is estimated at up to 6 trillion dollars in 2022
The first of the battles for the industrial property of this technology was won by the Broad Institute early last year. Following a complaint by the University of California against the Broad Institute, the United States Patent Office ruled that the Broad Institute’s patents on the application of CRISPR to a cellular environment were not so obvious.
The dispute has its ramifications in Europe where recently the European Patent Office has denied a series of patents to the Broad Institute due to a formal error (they omitted one of the inventors in the PCT extensions of several of their American priority patents). This has not allowed the EPO to enter into the merits of the matter and properly assess the concurrence of the patentability requirements of the Broad Institute’s developments who have already confirmed that will appeal the decision.
In addition to the tough competition between the two North American institutions for monopolizing the foundational developments of CRISPR, the great challenge of the arrival to the market of this revolutionary technology will be the need to identify and adequately understand the whole framework of patents, with their respective owners and technologies. , which can condition the obtaining of licenses to third parties for the development of future applications in animals, humans, agriculture, etc.
So far, more than 4,000 patent applications related to this technology have been identified and in many cases their owners must obtain authorization from the University of California and the Broad Institute to exploit their inventions. This is the case of companies such as Du Pont or Novartis. Even MPEG LA, the entity that manages the pool of patents related to the MPEG-2 video compressor, is already organizing another pool of CRISPR technologies, which already has the participation of the Broad Institute, to facilitate the complex issue of its licenses.