What is the latest IP situation of the People’s Republic of China in the CRISPR patent landscape? As announced in major media in April 2015, Chinese academic researchers have edited the genome of non-viable human embryos using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, triggering the on-going debates on human genome engineering ethical aspects. The presence of Chinese players, both academic and industrial, in the CRISPR patent landscape is also confirmed by our recent findings.
First, one 1 of 4 patents families included in our lastest patent database have a Chinese priority. China is therefore the second country where priority patent applications are filed after the USA (185 patent families, 61.1%). This highlights a growing interest for CRISPR-Cas in China through a strong increase of priority filings since 2013, that is to say a few months after the publication of the founding articles. However, we note that only two of the 82 Chinese priority filings have been extended via the PCT procedure so far, an usual trend of this territory, regardless of the technological areas.
Second, 8 of the 23 main patent applicants and assignees (comprising at least 3 patent families in the patent portfolio) are Chinese players. They are Chinese academic applicants, including labs from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (10 patent families) and the Anhui Academy of Agricultural Sciences (6 patent families). 82 priority filings comprise 61 institutional filings (74.4%), 13 industrial filings (15.9%) and 8 filings by inventors (9.7%).
Except for a few patent members covering chimeric non-nuclease CRISPR-Cas system, most patent families claim an RNA-Guided Nuclease. Compared to non-Chinese patent applications, Chinese patent applications are quite narrow in term of claim coverage/scope of protection, which may be an indicator of a different underlying IP strategy, possibly more defensive, compared to the players directly filing in the US. In particular, these patent applications are unlikely to use the divisional/CIP application further positioning tactics as observed with several of the core technology patent applications from 2012-2013, although this option also exists in the Chinese patent law.