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EPO awards CRISPR patent to European biotech

14 August 2017
Appeared in BioNews 913

German-based company MilliporeSigma has announced that the European Patent Office (EPO) intends to approve its CRISPR patent for use in eukaryotic cells.

The firm, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Merck KGaA, said the EPO has issued a 'Notice of Intention to Grant' a broad patent for the company's CRISPR technology.

'This is a significant and exciting decision by the EPO. This patent provides protection for our CRISPR technology, which will give scientists the ability to advance treatment options for the toughest medical challenges we face today,' said Udit Batra, MilliporeSigma's CEO.

Filed earlier this year, the patent application centres on the firm's 'proxy-CRISPR' technology, which it claims offers greater efficiency, flexibility and accuracy over the original CRISPR technique, allowing the cutting of 'previously unreachable cell locations'.

The EPO's notice to MilliporeSigma was issued five months after a similar notice was granted to the University of California, the University of Vienna and Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max-Planck Institute in Berlin (see BioNews 895).

Overall control of the patents remains hotly contested, with legal action ongoing in the United States (see  BioNews 911). However, unlike in the US, where the dispute is between just two groups (see BioNews 889), it is believed that the European market will produce a more diverse range of players.

According to patent attorney Catherine Coombes, there is unlikely to be a 'winner takes all' situation in the European intellectual property (IP) market.

She explained to Science: 'I find it quite fascinating that most people seem to think the patent disputes are between two groups when it's far more complicated than that. In Europe, it's quite possible for all six of the early players to have substantially overlapping rights.'

On Twitter, patent specialist Professor Jacob Sherkow at the Innovation Centre for Law and Technology, New York Law School, said that the European IP market had become 'a LOT more complicated'.

MilliporeSigma's patent, he pointed out, 'closely matched' the IP currently disputed in the United States. The only difference was that MilliporeSigma filed its patent six days before US researchers.

'I'm not sure how this gets resolved. The European patent landscape is now a sight to behold,' Professor Sherkow said.

CRISPR patent battle in Europe takes a ‘wild’ twist with surprising player
Science magazine |  4 August 2017
Designer Babies in Europe: German Merck Set to Receive CRISPR Patent
Labtech |  3 August 2017
European Patent Office to Grant MilliporeSigma's Patent Application for CRISPR Technology
PR Newswire |  3 August 2017
MilliporeSigma to Be Granted European Patent for CRISPR Technology
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News |  7 August 2017
31 July 2017 - by Dr Rachel Montgomery 
The University of California has moved to appeal a decision of the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board over the use of CRISPR in eukaryotic cells...
2 May 2017 - by Brian Nolan 
The European Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office have been thrust into a dispute pitting the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Vienna against the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University. Scientists and inventors have been watching the decisions of the EPO and USPTO because these decisions may leave one of these entities with a patent portfolio worth billions of dollars...
3 April 2017 - by Jen Willows 
The European Patent Office has declared that it intends to grant a broad patent for the use of CRISPR technologies to the University of California, the University of Vienna and Dr Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max-Planck Institute in Berlin...
18 May 2015 - by Ari Haque 
Patents for the gene-editing technology, CRISPR/Cas9, are the subject of a dispute between scientists at University of California, Berkeley and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard....
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