2013 is flying by, remarkably fast, so it was time to check how the class 977 patent filings are coming for the new year. Last year provided a record 4,098 nanotechnology publications. After 16 weeks in 2013, the PTO is on pace to publish 3,478 nanotechnology publications. While the number is projected to be lower, there is still clearly a large volume of nanotechnology filings for the PTO to examine. Stay tuned.
On April 15, 2013, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Myriad Genetics v. Association for Molecular Pathology litigation. The patent world is watching, particularly those who focus on emerging technologies. On March 14, 2013, the NanoBusiness Commercialization Association filed a brief in support of Myriad Genetics (brief prepared by Foley & Lardner, LLP). In addition to arguing that the patent claims should be patent eligible, which is the essence of the case, the brief also argues that patents do not preempt others from experimenting on, improving upon, or designing around a patented invention. With today being the first day of the new first-to-file regime, patent lawyers of all stripes are busy these days keeping up with dramatic changes to the patent system. The Supreme Court could use the Myriad case to establish a new paradigm for patent eligibility. Stay tuned.
An updated URGENT alert that the new U.S. first-to-file patent reform laws are now less than two weeks away. Many companies, whether nanotech, cleantech, biotech, or other types of emerging technology companies, should consider the merits of filing new, quality patent applications by March 15, 2013. Time is flying in 2013. The USPTO recently issued its finalized rules and processes for implementing the new system.
Also, bear in mind the new US PTO fee system activates March 19, 2013.
Batteries are all around us in the news. First, the Wall Street Journal and other media are reporting that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating microscopic “dendrite” formation as possible causes for the “dreamliner” lithium ion battery problems. Ironically, when I did lithium ion battery research two decades ago, dendrite formation was a key issue driving the research.
Hopefully, we can all agree on the goal to develop safer AND more powerful batteries – and hopefully it won’t take another 20 years.
Some important 3D printing updates, including micro- and nanoscale printing.
Second, the antitrust litigation involving 3D Systems had a major development recently. Apart from the legal analysis, the judge’s opinion (28 pages) has some interesting reading about the markets and technology for 3D printing. By noting this development, we confirm, of course, no implication on the merits or lack thereof for the litigation, for any of the parties, by noting this update for readers.
Finally, Nanoscribe GmbH continues to market its micro- and nanoscale manufacturing process using laser lithography. Nanoscribe is a “spinout” from the KIT organization. I enjoyed looking at their video.
Technology Review recently highlighted new published research from IBM and others on nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging (or nanoscale NMR). Perhaps proteins can be imaged.
IBM nanoscale research is noted in this link. IBM has hundreds of granted patents falling into the class 977 nanotechnology class.
IBM symbolizes as well as anyone the convergence revolution of physical sciences, biological sciences, and information technology.
I saw this recent article on the “nanotechnology patent jungle.” The article refers to another recent article on the subject of making nanotechnology research “open-source.” Patent jungles are all around us; the concept is not unique to nanotechnology, and it is important to establish what exactly is a jungle (do you need five or a 100 patents to create a jungle?). Some might call it good business planning when a company elects to try and create a patent jungle against competitors. Indeed, it takes but a single company to create a substantial jungle with a strong patent filing program coupled to R&D. In some cases, one is forced to “take a license” because it seemingly is cheaper to license than to study all the patents with the help of competent legal counsel. Competent legal counsel is needed to really study the impact of a perceived jungle (there might not really be a jungle – just a scare of a possible jungle).
I suspect that in the history of technological development for material things, there are many more examples where important technology is subjected to a lot of patenting, compared to examples where important technology is NOT subjected to much patenting. If you work in patenting long enough, you start seeing the concept of patent jungles being applied to multiple technology sectors (I can, for example, recall hearing about patent jungles with single site polyolefin catalysis or “metallocenes” in the 1990′s).
In a nutshell, the global patent system, as of 2013, has evolved to where one should quickly file patent applications to protect your technology (even the US is moving to a first-to-file system on March 16, 2013 which suggests a need for fast filing). Then, in the shorter and longer term, one should update on-going reviews for freedom-to-operate in the space of your invention, as part of a larger commercialization strategy. Patent jungles are not unique to nanotechnology and one should do IP due diligence as part of commercial investment. Nothing too new or unique here, although this is a more interesting discussion when focused on particular aspects of nanotechnology such as graphene or carbon nanotubes.
One can try to do business in sectors of the economy which are not directly based on technological development, but if you want to work in a sector for which technology innovation is essential for success, then one cannot ignore the patent system, or alternatively, one cannot wish the patent system would go away.
I do believe government policy makers should monitor patenting and its impact throughout the economy, including nanotechnology. Such past monitoring helped create the drive for patent reform and the move to a first-to-file system in the U.S.
I attended today the USPTO partnership meeting on “additive manufacturing” (aka 3D Printing). The content was excellent, covering both talks and demonstrations. Companies presenting included 3D Systems, Stratasys, Shapeways, MakerBot, Ex One, and EOS. Several hundred persons attended, including in person and via the web, and the room energy was excellent throughout the three hours plus of content. The 3D printing revolution appears to be on after some 25 years of gestation.
The USPTO should be congratulated for putting together this informative, exciting event. The USPTO did not give too much overview of how patenting impacts this, but patenting was frequently noted by the speakers, and the PTO did note that there have been around 6,800 patent applications filed in this area over the past ten years. I was particularly struck by the concept that 3D printing can in some cases make objects which cannot be made by other ways. I would also like to hear more about nanoscale aspects of this including materials, interfaces, and nanoscale resolution. One of the driving forces for nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing is additive manufacturing. This recently published U.S. patent application from Lockheed Martin (2013/0018243) shows use of carbon nanotubes and uses the phrase “bio-additive manufacturing.” We will continue to monitor patent filings in this important area as 2013 progresses.
In 3D printing, an object is built up layer-by-layer under computer controlled manufacturing. The talks today covered the historical development including the original stereolithography, laser sintering, binder-on-powder printing, and inkjet 3D printing. Today, some of the companies are trying to “democratize” the technology and introduce this wonder to the general public. With 3D printing, everyone can become a creator. Recently media reports on 3D printing have been abundant. Hopefully, venture capital will be interested. Stay tuned!
The Economist, one of the more worthy media sources these days for connecting technology to larger society, included a page on nanomedicine in its special issue, “The World in 2013.” (page 128). The article is by Professors Omid Farokhzad and Rober Langer and focuses on bio nanotechnology from BIND Biosciences. BIND recently announced a development deal with Amgen. Professor Langer is a founder of BIND and Professor Farokhzad also works closely with BIND (according to the BIND Web page). The technology is for polymeric nanoparticles which smartly carry a payload. Cancer treatment is a leading application. Patenting is an important part of the company strategy per their press releases and web page content.
Lets hope more deals are in the works for nanomedicine as 2013 moves ahead into the market place from academic research. Venture capital is an important part of this story.
In Germany this week on business which has me thinking about some things related to Germany. For example, what can we learn from Germany and their relative economic success, including energy policy and manufacturing? Important current article in Technology Review reviews the current debate on manufacturing and the wisdom in looking to Germany for clues. Advanced manufacturing, including 3-D printing and nanotechnology, are important themes. The cited Brookings study (2012) has more information about Germany, including its R&D networks, continuous vocational training, stable access to financing, and long term approaches to problem solving. Of course, one also has to review the progress in other countries also including Japan and South Korea.
I reproduced part of the Technology Review article below:
“…, the White House has proposed a series of measures to accelerate advanced manufacturing, including an additional $418 million for advanced manufacturing R&D (a 19 percent increase over current levels); $8 billion in new funding for community colleges to train people with the skills manufacturers need; a bundle of tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers; and a $1 billion program to create 15 national institutes aimed at developing new manufacturing techniques in areas such as 3-D printing and nanotechnology.”
“The government’s approach has a committed chorus of supporters who believe active intervention is needed. In February, the Brookings Institution released a paper arguing for a manufacturing policy similar to that of Germany. That country, which carefully manages its manufacturing sector, still maintains a trade surplus with China and has lost fewer of its manufacturing jobs than the U.S. has.”