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Author: Nicholas Vincent

The Patient Side of the CRISPR Patent Battle

A contentious patent battle has continued to rage between the Broad Institute at Harvard/MIT and the University of California (UC). UC is challenging 13 patents related to CRISPR gene editing technology that are currently held by the Broad Institute. The basis of the challenge lies in explaining the potential influence that the work of Jennifer Doudna (UC Berkeley) and Emanuelle Charpentier (then at Umeå University) had on Feng Zhang’s (Broad Institute) later work, and whether his work was an obvious development beyond that of Doudna/ Charpentier, or whether it has the earliest priority claim. Although the patent battle remains active with an uncertain outcome, Doudna, Charpentier, and Zhang remain key players with regards to both the patents and research advances/ startup companies related to the technology.

USPTO Charting the Way for Subject Matter Eligibility

On November 2, 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued an important and forward-looking memo on Recent Subject Matter Eligibility Decisions for patent applications that offered guidance for drafting claims that may have previously been rendered ineligible under the two-step Alice test for determining patent eligibility. The USPTO signaled that this is a further step in a longer and more detailed conversation on patent subject matter eligibility (SME) that will continue in the near future. We expect this conversation to inform areas ranging from software and computer-implemented inventions to biotechnology.

Recent Software Case Gives Important Lessons For Biotech

On September 13, the Federal Circuit held that a series of ordered combination of steps related to lip-synch software did not constitute an abstract idea, and was subsequently patent eligible under §101 (McRO, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America). This decision reversed and remanded an earlier decision issued by the United States District Court for the Central District of California in McRO, Inc. v. Sony Computer Entertainment America, LLC. This case, which was followed closely by the IT community, also has important, positive implications for the patent eligibility of biotech inventions.

The Emergent Microbiome: A Revolution for the Life Sciences – Part VII, The Microbiology of the Built Environment

Many research efforts into the microbiome have focused primarily on the human microbiome, i.e. microorganisms within and on the body, and how changes in these microbial communities correlate with changes in health and disease. Less attention, however, has been paid to the microbial communities external to humans and how changes in these communities can affect health. These communities have a broad range, from the microbiome of indoor spaces, also called the microbiology of the built environment (MoBE), to microbial communities found outdoors. Microbial communities that give certain foods, such as San Francisco sour dough bread, various wines, beers, and even cheeses, characteristic qualities like taste and texture are also examples of external microbiomes. As with the human microbiome, scientists do not yet fully understand how changes in external or indoor microbiomes could alter human health, but we see plentiful possibilities for further research and intellectual property protection of subsequent innovation, especially with regards to the MoBE. This article concludes with a sampling of some of the patenting activity in this area.