CRISPR technology is revolutionising molecular biology and opening up a plethora of research avenues and technical applications. The uncertainty over the validity and ownership of the pioneering IP in the field, and indeed the explosion in the number of patent applications covering downstream IP in the field, does however have the potential to chill this progress. New and existing players will need to navigate the growing patent minefield and be IP-aware enough to understand the need to licence third party IP, to be able to identify which IP to licence, and to be able to determine how much to pay for it.
The management man hours which will need to be devoted to such IP issues across industry will potentially be huge. Fortunately, momentum appears to be building behind the establishment of a patent pool for this area, much like is seen in the software and telecoms fields. Commentators seem to agree that there is a desire within the field to ensure that the potential of CRISPR technology is maximised and as such many of the various IP holders have suggested that they are not intent on pursuing exclusive licensing strategies and instead wish to make the IP available more widely.
Hopefully, the will to ensure wide access to the use of CRISPR technology on reasonable terms will prevail and the field will see the development of user-friendly licensing schemes. This should, in turn, give innovative companies the relative freedom to concentrate on their research involving CRISPR without being encumbered by an unmanageable number of IP rights issues. However, players in this field cannot ignore their potential IP obligations and it would, at least for now, be prudent to engage professional assistance in navigating the current IP landscape.