This blog series highlights the importance of appropriate application of U.S. patent law to stimulate, not stifle, crop innovation through gene editing. Overly broad claims of CRISPR technology in the hands of very few risk stifling innovation and much-needed improvements, as we have discussed in this Nature Biotechnology article and in blog posts here and here. The arguments are based on current Federal Circuit opinions, Examiner Guidelines for examining sequence related applications, and our own experience with prosecution in the US Patent and Trademark Office. The patent laws were designed to ensure that the scope of protection was commensurate in scope with the teaching of the patent specification. If the scope of exclusive rights is too broad, patents, or uncertainty surrounding them, can stifle follow-on innovation.
Empowering new food innovators with technologies like gene editing CRISPR nucleases can unlock the vast genetic diversity that naturally exists within crops to make them more resilient, sustainable and nutritious, a critical need that is soberly underscored by the most recent report on climate change. Benson Hill is a food innovator with a mission to empower more food innovators. With the largest portfolio of gene editing nucleases in industry, we are committed to enabling organizations of any size across the food and agriculture value chain to access technologies that can accelerate their R&D programs.
In addition to providing access to our unique proprietary CRISPR 3.0 (Cms1) nucleases, we believe it’s important to promote and defend an intellectual property landscape for CRISPR 2.0 (Cpf1) nucleases that provides innovators with greater certainty, clarity and choice. We are pleased that the Examiner at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recognized our work as the first time these claimed Cpf1 nucleases were enabled and shown to work, and this week the USPTO has granted us claims on the use of these nucleases in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
Innovation is critical and so is community. The diversity of crops and needs in our food system warrants a diverse community of organizations committed to those different needs. Empowering that community will continue to be our priority by promoting choice and a spirit of true collaboration based on appropriate application of patent law where we can all be a part of the solution.