The EPO awarded the Doudna-Charpentier team a broad CRISPR-Cas9 patent covering the single-guide RNA format of the CRISPR-Cas9 system and its use in any environment (including plant, animal and human cells). This first European patent also includes claims covering the use of CRISPR-Cas9 in producing medicines for treating disease.
Oppositions against this patent have been filed with the EPO, and a hearing is expected in 2019. A second patent was awarded to the Doudna-Charpentier team on February 28, 2018. Both European patents cover the use of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in a broad range of cellular and noncellular settings. While the first patent covers all uses of the single-guide format of the system, the second patent focuses on modified Cas9 that incorporates additional DNA-modulating functions such as the regulation of gene expression.
The opposition system
Under the European system, which covers 38 member countries through the European Patent Office (EPO), anyone can challenge the grant of a patent within nine months after issuance through a process known as an “opposition.” Opponents provide written arguments and evidence explaining why the patent should not have been granted, with opportunities for the patent owner to provide arguments and evidence explaining why the patent was properly granted. At the end of the written submissions, a three-member panel conducts a hearing, where the opponents and patent owner make arguments and a decision is rendered.