The CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) Technology was first identified in bacteria and is an RNA based system to help protect bacteria against viral infections. It has broad applications and is poised to be a valuable tool in genome engineering.
Earlier this year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) declared an interference between a patent application owned by University of California Berkeley, University of Vienna and Emmanuelle Charpentier (collectively, University of California), and five patents owned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The Broad Institute, Inc. along with seven patents owned by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Broad Institute, Inc. and the President and Fellows of Harvard College (collectively, Broad Institute). In doing so, the USPTO declared that the University of California is the Senior Party and the Broad Institute is the Junior Party, and proposed one count in the interference. The interference is in the motions phase, and each party has already requested permission to file various motions. The USPTO has authorized some motions and deferred authorization on others.
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On March 31, 2016, the University of California filed a request for reconsideration of the USPTO's decision on the authorization of motions. Specifically, the University of California sought reconsideration of the motions that the Broad Institute claims are subject to AIA prior art provisions, and the proposed motion to de-designate certain of the University of California claims as corresponding to the count. On April 15, the USPTO denied the request for rehearing.
It appears from the list of motions that the University of California requested permission to file that there may be numerous attacks on the validity of the claims in the Broad Institute patents. While the USPTO has not permitted the University of California to file these motions at this time, it remains to be seen if this will cause a problem for the Broad Institute patents. The USPTO may authorize the University of California motions at a later time during the course of the interference. Also, there is the possibility that a third party, or parties, may challenge the validity of the Broad Institute patents in another forum or proceeding.