Thursday, April 14, 2016


Back in the 60s when I first started in Academia we did not focus on Patents. The laws had not yet made it a potential profit center for Universities and Start Ups had been few and far between. We published everything, usually with one or at most two authors. Now Academics patent everything and papers have thousands of authors.

The CRISPR wars are just heating up. As Nature notes:

Last month, in an extraordinary dispute before the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), university lawyers laid out their clients' legal strategies for claiming patents that cover the celebrated gene-editing technology CRISPR–Cas9. Over the next year, the USPTO will receive volumes of evidence centred on who first invented the technology. Battles over scientific priority are as old as science itself. But the CRISPR–Cas9 patent dispute is unusual because it pits two leading research institutions against one another for the control and industrial development of a foundational technology: the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As scientific institutions increase their involvement in the commercialization of research, it is worth considering the potential consequences for science if more institutions follow the path of UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute.

The battle is costly. Litigation can cost millions and result in outcomes that are counter productive. We remarked when the CRISPR patent was issued that it was a first for the PTO. Less than six months from filing to issuance.

Perhaps when stones are overturned in the litigation one may find things that would have best been hidden. Also it puts one of the game changing technologies in Limbo for a while.