Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Crisp Account of Bad Tea Leaves for UC

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — If the number and tenor of questions addressed to each side during oral arguments in the CRISPR patent fight is any indication of what the patent judges are thinking, the University of California has a steep hill to climb if it wants to overturn the 2014 decision awarding key CRISPR patents to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and win them for itself.

A 45-minute hearing on Tuesday morning before a three-judge panel of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, the arm of the US Patent and Trademark Office that hears challenges to patent decisions, offered the only oral arguments in the bitter fight over whether UC or the Broad deserves key patents on the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology. The Broad was granted its first such patent in April 2014, nearly two years after Feng Zhang and his colleagues engineered CRISPR-Cas9 to edit mammalian genomes.

“My gut-level impression is that the questioning of the Broad’s attorney was really light, but they grilled UC a lot more,” Jacob Sherkow, a patent expert at New York Law School who has followed the CRISPR case closely, said right after the hearing adjourned. “The heat of the questions is not perfectly indicative of the outcome, but if you read the tea leaves, it was bad for UC.”...

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