Arbitrator tells Rockefeller to stop blocking Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard CRISPR-Cas9 system patent

There is a well-known patent dispute between University of California (UC), Berkeley and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT over use of the CRISPR-Cas9 system. That legal fight is unsurprising, given the billions of dollars at stake and the reality that academics want to be rich just like everyone else.

Less well-known was the dispute between Rockefeller University and Broad. After Broad's 2013 filing, Rockefeller filed an interference, listing Luciano Marraffini is a co-author of the patent along with Broad’s Dr. Feng Zhang. Following arbitration, Rockefeller has been forced to remove claims that Dr. Luciano Marraffini is a co-author of US Patent 8,697,359. However, the Broad Institute portfolio includes filings relating to the use of the CRISPR-Cas9 system in prokaryotic cells, on which Drs. Marraffini and Zhang are co-inventors and Rockefeller and Broad are joint owners.

The Broad Institute and Rockefeller make CRISPR tools freely available to the academic and nonprofit communities and issue non-exclusive licenses for most types of commercial research. In July, 2017, the institutions joined discussions to create a worldwide CRISPR-Cas9 licensing pool. For human therapeutics, parties interested in licensing the technology can apply through the Broad website.

In Europe, things are not so rosy for Broad. European Patent Office’s Opposition Division ruled that Broad loses “priority” for one of its CRISPR patents and will likely face complete revocation. So it will be interesting to see which European magically appears claiming to have simultaneously developed it.