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USPTO Declares Interference Proceeding to Adjudicate CRISPR Patent Spat

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The US Patent and Trademark Office yesterday declared an interference proceeding to settle certain claims related to the CRISPR patent battle between parties led by the Broad Institute and the University of California, respectively.

In the interference proceedings, the USPTO will collect, consider, and compare historical documentary evidence to establish invention dates. Because the applications were filed before the US moved to a "first to file" patent system in 2013, the patent rights will be granted under the old "first to invent" system.

In a document declaring the interference, the USPTO named the University of California as the senior party, effectively placing the burden on the Broad Institute to establish that it invented the technology first, even though the USPTO granted it the first CRISPR-related patent in April 2014.

The announcement comes after the University of California requested in April 2015 that the USPTO initiate an interference.

The USPTO has awarded the Broad Institute more than a dozen CRISPR-related patents based on the work of Feng Zhang, a core faculty member at the Broad Institute and assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his colleagues — notably Fei Ann Ran, a postdoc in Zhang's lab. The University of California submitted its patent application first, based on the work of UC-Berkeley Professor Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, then at Sweden's Umeå University; however, the Broad application was reviewed and awarded under the USPTO's "accelerated examination" procedures.

In a statement, the Broad Institute said that by awarding US Patent 8,697,359  to the Broad, MIT and Zhang, the USPTO "was fully aware of and fully considered the claims and materials in the other patent applications," including UC-Berkeley's. The University of California's patent application claims a priority date of May 25, 2012.

Administrative Patent Judge Deborah Katz will manage the proceedings. Vedder Price will act as counsel to the Broad Institute. Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and Goodwin Procter will serve as counsel for the party led by the University of California.

The parties will participate in an initial conference call on March 9.

According to the USPTO, the senior party — the University of California — is responsible for initiating settlement discussions.

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