After an intense court battle, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released its ruling on February 15. The rights for the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology was handed over to the Broad Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
According to an article in Nature, the said court battle was between the Broad Institute and the University of California. The two institutions are fighting over the intellectual property right for the CRISPR patent. The case between the two started when the patent was first awarded to the Broad Institute despite having the University of California apply first for the CRISPR patent.
As their argument, the University of California filed an interference proceeding against the research institute of Harvard and MIT so that the CRISPR patents available at Broad's would be fully disposed. However, the court ruled that there's no interference favoring Harvard and MIT's claim.
The University of California also appealed that its team in Berkeley are the ones who invented the CRISPR. The side of the University of California also further explained that they have Professor Jennifer Doudna on their team who is actually a widely-renowned gene-editing technique inventor.
Moreover, Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute explained that their patent would only cover the gene-editing technique that is for eukaryotic cells such as those that are in humans, livestock, and plants. The lawyers from Broad's side also highlighted that the University of California failed to specify their patent claim. In a statement in New York Times, Doudna shared her sentiments that their team wants to have the patent to not just eukaryotic cells but even to other cells. She even used an analogy that if the Broad Institute just wanted a patent on green tennis balls, their team is getting a patent to all tennis balls.
Companies who wanted to get licenses for the CRISPR technology are caught in between the thorns of Broad Institute and the University of California. It's still unclear up to this day whether they can only get approval from one of the two or if they should get the approval of Harvard and MIT's Broad Institute and the University of California.