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UC appeal of CRISPR patent ruling fighting long odds


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 9th, 2018

The University of California (UC) has encountered what appears to be a brick wall in its ongoing dispute with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard over rights to the gene-editing technology CRISPR.

In a recent hearing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, UC failed to win over at least one of the three judges in its argument against Broad, which has already won the rights to the technology. In order to reverse that victory, the appeals court would have to find that the patent office committed major legal errors, as UC’s attorney Donald Verrilli argued in court.

“UC came into this argument from a tough spot,” says patent attorney Michael Stramiello, who attended the appeals hearing. “I doubt that oral arguments from either side moved the needle much.”

Verrilli pointed to both legal and scientific evidence to make his case that the patent office did not have “substantial evidence” for its decision to grant the CRISPR patent to the Broad. He argued that numerous labs got CRISPR to work in mammalian cells after UC scientist used it on DNA in a test tube, showing that the Broad’s work was merely an obvious extension of UC’s and therefore not deserving of patent protection.

However, according to Judge Kimberly Moore, just because the labs got CRISPR to work in mammalian cells “doesn’t mean they thought it would work.” In the end she commented, “It’s hard for me to say there wasn’t substantial evidence” to grant the Broad patents.

After the hearing, the Broad issued the following statement: “Based on the oral arguments today, we are even more confident the Federal Circuit will affirm the PTAB’s judgment. We call on UCB and the companies that control its IP to join our ongoing efforts to simplify, share and open the IP landscape.”

A statement from UC general counsel Charles F. Robinson reads, “We presented compelling arguments today that the PTAB committed several legal errors, including disregarding Supreme Court and Federal Circuit precedent. Based on the questioning today, we are optimistic that the court has serious doubts about several aspects of the PTAB’s decision.”

Source: STAT

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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