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CRISPR Patent Dispute: Lessons from the past and an eye to the future

This article was first published in Bioscience Law Review VOL 16 ISSUE 1 p5

Asawari Churi provides an overview of the current patent situation surrounding the CRISPR technology and explores possible outcomes.


Innovation takes place, to a large extent, by an incremental process where new inventions are evolutionary improvements of a pre-existing technology. Occasionally, however, a new disruptive technology appears that changes the field forever. The world of biotechnology is currently experiencing such an upheaval brought about by a disruptor – a new gene editing technology known as CRISPR.

The enormous potential of the technology appears to be matched by the controversy surrounding the question of who owns it. At the root of the controversy are two warring groups, with each group seeking ownership of the patents covering CRISPR. This is not the first time an invention revolutionising genetics has caused such a furore in the patent world. Some have compared the impact CRISPR is making to the one made by PCR (polymerase chain reaction), another technology that similarly revolutionised biotechnology in the 1990s.

This article attempts to give an overview of the patent dispute and to consider how it may play out in the future in light of the lessons from the past.

Please download the article here