North Carolina biotechnology company Precision BioSciences has secured a patent victory for its genome engineering technology.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected claims from French company Cellectis that alleges that Precision is infringing on a Cellectis patent. The USPTO decision rejects Cellectis’ claims as being anticipated by or obvious in the context of already publicly available information. The claims stem from a Cellectis lawsuit filed in 2011 against Durham-based Precision regarding Cellectis’ ’372 patent.

The Precision and Cellectis patent dispute dates back several years. In 2008, Cellectis filed claims on two in-licensed patents, claims that the patent office rejected. For the latest patent office decision, Cellectis does have the opportunity to respond.

“We are very pleased with the PTO’s rejection of the claims of the ’372 patent,” Precision BioSciences vice president of scientific development Derek Jantz said in a statement. “We have always believed that the ’372 patent was a blatant attempt by Cellectis to patent material that was obvious in light of the discoveries made by other scientists.”

Precision has patents of its own for its genome engineering technology. The company’s technology, licensed from Duke University, is called Directed Nuclease Editor technology, or DNE. The genomics technology allows scientists to insert, remove, modify or regulate any gene in mammalian or plant cells for applications in plant science and human biotechnology. Precision has also turned to patent lawsuits to fight Cellectis. Last October, Precision sued Cellectis for infringing on the company’s DNE technology.

The DNE technology could be used to “correct” genes responsible for human diseases. Precision recently split its plant science operations into a separate business unit; Precision PlantSciences will focus on agricultural applications and Precision BioSciences will continue biotechnology R&D for applications in human health.

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