Panagopoulos and Sideri, ‘Prospect Patents and CRISPR; Rivalry and Ethical Licensing in a Semi Commons Environment’

The prospect theory of patents views patents as a tool for development and commercialization of inventions. Prospect patents rely on broad control of a technology so that rivalry between competing products is diminished thus avoiding waste of common pool resources. The theory has been widely criticized but in this article we argue that it does not address the realities of an economy where many innovations are created by universities. Although university patents on inventions such as new gene editing tools fit squarely in the definition of prospect patents they may still allow rivalry to resurface at the commercialization stage. This rivalry is not between competing firms; it is between competing visions of the prospect: the university’s vision versus the licensee’s. We use as a case study the CRISPR-Cas9 technology invented by universities and commercialized by licensees. We employ patent landscape analysis showing that CRISPR-Cas9’s prospects comply with the characteristics of prospect patents and, above all, diminish rivalry at the commercialization stage. As the lack of competition leads to excessive treatment prices, tensions arise because the licensee understands CRISPR-Cas9 as a revenue generating prospect, while the university views it as a technology requiring broad distribution. Such discerning visions can breed rivalry between licensor and licensee despite broad patent rights. In addressing this we turn to the literature on semi commons, which implies an environment where private rights of exclusion such as prospect patents work with ethical licenses and a domain of resources open for reuse to foster innovation. We argue that in this environment, universities can emerge as important actors in the regulatory enterprise through additional ex post licensing. To this end, we propose a market based solution in the form of a license allowing for patent re-licensing if the licensee fails to address a predefined demand for the final product.

Panagopoulos, Andreas and Sideri, Katerina, Prospect Patents and CRISPR; Rivalry and Ethical Licensing in a Semi Commons Environment (September 4, 2020). Journal of Law and the Biosciences 2020.

First posted 2021-09-01 12:00:31

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