patent licenses provides a beneficial form of self-regulation, reducing the
need for external government regulation.
94 The use of patent licensing to
limit applications of CRISPR has not previously been considered in the
policy discussions to date.
95 Entering this policy vacuum, the Broad
Institute, which holds several key patents on the CRISPR technology, has
begun to license its CRISPR patent portfolio, first to Monsanto.
license restricts socially controversial applications, as they define such
97 During the period of the patent term, a research entity may
not develop an invention without first seeking and receiving a license from
the Broad Institute.
The Broad Institute will license non-exclusive research and commercial
use of its patented CRISPR use in agriculture, subject to three limits.
the technology may not be used for gene drive.100 Second, it may not be used
to create sterile seeds.101 Third, it may not be used to modify tobacco for any
uses except creating a model organism and manufacturing non-tobacco
This kind of licensing agreement effectively limits potentially
controversial uses of patented technologies.103 The benefits are real. The
process is relatively quick, as the patent holder holds the decisional power
and can anticipate some negative uses of the patient.104 The license is
enforceable in court and penalties can be built into the license.105 The license
can be specifically tailored to the concerns of both parties.106 Lastly, the
license is negotiated between the parties, rather than through the fractious
94. See Christi J. Guerrini et al., The Rise of the Ethical License, 35 NATURE
BIOTECHNOLOGY 22, 23 (2017) (explaining that a solution may exist in “using patent licenses
to restrict socially controversial applications of a technology”) [hereinafter Ethical License].
95. See id. (“Notably, the use of patent licensing to limit applications has not yet entered
the national or international policy conversation.”).
96. Monsanto Licenses CRISPR/Cpf1 from Broad Institute, GENOMEWEB (Jan. 4, 2017),
97. See Christi Guerrini, Licensing ‘CRISPR’ Patents to Promote Public Interests,
C. OF MED. (Jan. 18, 2017), https://blogs.bcm.edu/2017/01/18/licensing-crispr-
patents-promote-public-interests/ (explaining that Broad’s license to Monsanto contains
various restrictions on use).
98. Ethical License, supra note 94, at 23.
99. Issi Rosen, Licensing CRISPR for Agriculture: Policy Considerations, BROAD INST.
(Sept. 29, 2016), https://www.broadinstitute.org/news/licensing-crispr-agriculture-policy-considerations.