After the US patent office ruled against the University of California in its battle for key patents on the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology last week, UC put on a brave face. It might appeal the decision, it told reporters. It might settle for the patent it originally filed for, in 2012, and live with the fact that the Broad Institute, which prevailed at the patent office, gets to keep crucial patents that UC challenged. Unfortunately for UC, a public institution that could really use royalty and licensing revenues from CRISPR patents, experts in intellectual property suspect that even its fallback positions are no more solid than shaving cream.

UC’s first hurdle involves any appeal. Under the America Invents Act, a law that came into effect in 2013 and was intended to promote innovation, patent office decisions can be appealed only to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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