A Japanese court has ruled in favour of a US institute’s patent application on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique, the Nikkei Asian Review reported on 26 February.

The method, which lets users edit genetic material more easily compared with older systems, is applied in a wide range of fields from medical treatments to agriculture, including the development of modified oilseeds. (See 'CRISP/Gene editing': www.ofimagazine.com/content-images/backgrounders/CRISP_Gene_Editing2.pdf)

Makiko Takabe, chief judge of the Intellectual Property High Court, rejected the Japan Patent Office’s decision on one of two applications made by the Broad Institute, part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

The patent office had denied both applications in 2017, citing existing patents related to the technology. However, Takabe said CRISPR-Cas9’s contribution to more efficient genome editing was not covered by those patents. The court upheld the office’s decision in rejecting the second application.

Several leading research institutions have filed for patents around the world related to CRISPR-Cas9 but ongoing legal battles had left the field in flux, Nikkei Asian Review wrote.

For now, Japan’s latest ruling meant commercial users of gene-editing technology would need to obtain licenses from many patent holders, said Kazuo Makino, a lawyer specialising in high-tech patents.

Broad Institute has applied for several other patents in Japan.