The European Patent Office (EPO) announced on 23 March its “intention to grant a patent” to the University of California (UC) for its broad-based claims about the genome-editing tool popularly known as CRISPR. UC, on behalf of several parties, has been in a pitched battle with the Broad Institute of Cambridge, Massachusetts, over CRISPR patents, and the new decision marks a sharp departure from the position of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The UC team first reported how to use CRISPR in pieces of circular DNA called plasmids that can invade bacteria, but the Broad won a race to apply the method to human cells, which represents a potential billion-dollar marketplace for medicines. The Broad won the first U.S. patents on CRISPR by paying to have USPTO give them a fast review, but UC’s application is still under review and it filed a so-called “interference” claim against the Broad last year. After a prolonged legal battle, USPTO in February ruled that it wasn’t obvious that UC’s discovery would work in human and other eukaryotic cells, giving the Broad a distinct patent advantage.