CRISPR and human germline modification at the EPO

Ingrid Schneider (University of Hamburg) & Viola Prifti, “CRISPR and human germline modification at the EPO: The Role of the ‘Ordre Public or Morality’ Clause in patent law”

The ‘ordre public and morality’ clause in Article 53 (b) EPC and its narrow or wide interpretation has been contested for long. The understanding of this clause in examining patents is of particular importance in light of recent scientific advances in genome editing. New techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 and CRISPR-Cpf1 (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) promise precise, fast, inexpensive, and easy to handle ways of genome editing and can be employed in all kinds of DNA. Despite their significant advantages for research (Broad Institute 2015; Ledford 2015), and possible treatment of genetic diseases (Miller 2015; Norcross 2015), the application of CRISPR in heritable germline modification is considered unsafe and unethical by many scientists (Baltimore et al. 2015; Lanphier et al. 2015). This paper aims at showing the importance of these arguments in applying the ‘ordre public and morality’ exemption in patent examinations of genome editing by the European Patent Office (EPO).