So it continues. In February, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided in favor of the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has been battling for years with the University of California over patents for the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9, often shorthanded as CRISPR.
On Thursday, the University of California filed an appeal, as many expected, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. “There would be no reason why UC wouldn’t appeal this decision,” says Brian Nolan, a life-sciences intellectual-property lawyer with Mayer Brown. “They lost, and this is the next step.”
What is unusual, though, is that this case even got this far in the first place. Such cases are usually quietly settled. Instead, the two sides have racked up tens of millions of dollars of legal fees.
Is it worth it? If you believe CRISPR patents are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, as some have estimated, then yes. The technology allows scientists to much more easily manipulate the genomes of plants, animals, and humans. Since its discovery about five years ago, CRISPR has spurred hundreds of research papers and a handful of high-profile startups seeking to cure human diseases, including Editas Medicine, Intellia Therapeutics, and CRISPR Therapeutics. These companies have licensed the patents from one side or the other even as the patents are being hotly disputed—which might give a sense of how eager companies are to move forward on CRISPR therapies.