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A book lies open, with a judge's gavel resting on top.

For the better part of the last three years, the introduction of the most powerful gene editing technology ever invented has been marred by a nasty patent battle. The two groups of scientists involved, each contributing significantly to the future of genetic engineering, are pitted against each other in a bitter contest for glory and fortune.

In one corner: UC Berkeley, which argued that seminal 2012 work revealing that a bacterial immune system called CRISPR could be repurposed to edit genes ultimately paved the way for CRISPR to be used to genetically alter animal DNA. In the other corner: The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, which six months later actually adapted CRISPR to engineer plant, animal and human cells. At issue: Who deserves credit for the original recipe that led to using CRISPR-Cas9 to edit mammalian DNA.

In February, a US Patent Office appeal board raised the Broad Institute’s arm in victory. Since then, this US case has been stuck in appeals within the Federal Circuit (in Europe, the question of who will ultimately win this patent battle...