t may not be Game 7 of the World Series, but biotech and patent law wonks, mark your calendars: Oral arguments in the fight over who deserves the key patent on the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology are set for next month.
Come 10 a.m. on Dec. 6, the parties in the case will be able to present 20-minute arguments — as well as rebut the other side for five minutes — before three US Patent and Trademark Office judges in Alexandria, Va. The judges will also be able to grill the parties on what they have filed in their voluminous motions.
The oral arguments will be open to the public.
A quick review: The two parties, led on one side by the University of California and on the other by the Broad Institute, have been sparring over who uncovered which aspects of the CRISPR system and when.
The Broad was initially awarded a number of CRISPR patents for work led by Feng Zhang, including one from April 2014 that UC argues it should have received for work done by Jennifer Doudna, a researcher at the Berkeley campus.
Doudna and colleagues showed that CRISPR, which in nature is a bacterial immune system, can edit DNA in a test tube, and filed a patent application before the Broad did.
But the Broad and its legal allies argue that Zhang went beyond Doudna, coaxing CRISPR to edit genomes in living animal and human cells, something they say was not an obvious extension of Doudna’s work.
What matters are more than bragging rights. The institute that receives the key patent or patents could garner million in licensing fees from companies wanting to commercialize the technology.
So far, it’s been an acrimonious — and expensive — legal fight. In the order setting the oral arguments, which is dated Nov. 5, the judges wrote that both sides wanted the oral argument.
You can read the four-page order here, where it was posted by Jacob Sherkow, an expert on intellectual property law at New York Law School who has been following the case closely.