Tens of millions of dollars have been spent in a legal fight between two US scientific powerhouses, but a recent ruling by the US Patent Office could signal its end

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Fears that foreign governments are tapping U.S.-funded research for valuable information have reached the nation’s largest research funder, the NIH. Last week it sent a letter to more than 10,000 research institutions, urging them to ensure that NIH grantees are properly reporting their foreign ties

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Universities and other nonprofit research institutions are under increasing fire about their commitments to the public interest. In return for tax-exempt status, their work is supposed to benefit society. But are they really operating in the public interest when they wield their patent rights in ways that constrict research?

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Last week, the US Patent and Trademarks office handed down a decision in one of the most high-profile patent cases of the century. In a one sentence ruling, an appeals board granted the rights to the powerful gene editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, while leaving the door open for rival CRISPR pioneer UC Berkeley to file a new patent to lay claim to those same discoveries

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Three judges have released their decision

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Any chance that the ugly patent fight over CRISPR gene editing would end quickly or amicably looks about as likely as President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee sailing through the Senate, according to the first conference call between lawyers from the Broad Institute and the University of California, the two warring institutions

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