News & Views

European Patent Office Grants a Broad Patent on CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing Technology

12 May 2017

Author: Juli Mansnérus

On 10 May 2017, the European Patent Office granted CRISPR Therapeutics a patent broadly covering gene-editing technology. CRISPR is an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. These are short palindromic DNA repeats found in bacterial genomes. The patent relates to the methods and compositions for RNA-directed target DNA modification and RNA-directed transcription modulation. Put simply, the CRISPR system allows scientists to make changes to DNA.


The European patent application was the subject of numerous third-party observations after the patent application was filed in March 2013. The University of California Berkeley, (UC Berkeley), University of Vienna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the co-founder of CRISPR Therapeutics, applied for the patent. In the US, UC-Berkeley and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (the Broad Institute) have disputed who invented the technology first, and subsequently, who has rights to the CRISPR patent. The US Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board ruled in February 2017, that UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute’s patents did not interfere with each other. In April 2017, UC-Berkeley appealed a US Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision in the CRISPR gene-editing dispute. UC Berkeley has said it will continue to pursue patent applications in the US, alongside its European patents.


CRISPR Therapeutics has already been granted a patent in the United Kingdom. The UK’s Intellectual Property Office granted one UK patent to the CRISPR/Cas9 single-guide gene editing system for use in non-cellular and cellular settings, and a second to ‘chimeric’ CRISPR/Cas9 systems in which the Cas9 protein is modified to provide alternative DNA-modulating activities.