UC Berkeley gene-editing technology patent upheld by European Patent Office

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The European Patent Office, or EPO, upheld a patent on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology following an opposition proceeding that took place from Feb. 5 to Feb. 7.

The opposition proceedings were part of the EPO’s standard procedure, according to an email from Cate Cronin, a member of UC Berkeley’s public relations team for CRISPR-Cas9 matters. This procedure grants a nine-month window for a party to file an opposition on patents.

These oppositions can be filed anonymously and are common in commercially important patents. In these cases, oppositions are primarily filed by opposing parties with a commercial interest in the patents.

Cronin said in the email that the CRISPR-Cas9 patent had seven opponents.

“Not all of the parties that have challenged UC’s patent from the EPO are publicly known,” Cronin said in the email.  “They were filed as ‘straw men,’ which is a way for parties to obscure their identities while filing an opposition.”

The CRISPR-Cas9 patent covers the compositions of cells of single guide RNA in eukaryotes, as well as their use in patient therapy.

The EPO outlines three bases for the filing of an opposition case: the attempted patent does not fit the EPO’s basis for patentable subjects, the invention’s creation is not defined well enough to be recreated by a professional or the scope of the patent extends beyond what is filed by the patent.

According to Cronin, the opposition’s point of contention concerns the composition and usage of single guide RNA in eukaryotes.

If an oppositional hearing proceeds, the EPO issues one of three outcomes: the patent is upheld without change, the patent is revoked or the patent is upheld with amendments.

The CRISPR-Cas9 patent was maintained following the proceeding in an amended form, but according to Cronin, the modifications to the patent were minor.

“We are pleased that these proceedings have solidified the validity of this patent in the (European Union), as the modifications are minor and do not affect the scope of the patent overall,” Cronin said in the email.

Contact Blake Evans at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Blake_J_Evans.