Some important 3D printing updates, including micro- and nanoscale printing.
First, the ExOne IPO had an early surge according to press reports. ExOne is located in North Huntingdon, PA.
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.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently announced updates with the Materials Genonme Initiative (MGI). $25M in grants are noted, and the awardees include universities, national laboratories, and private sector companies (e.g., GM). Collaboration continues to be a strong theme.
Collaboration usually sounds good and makes sense in many contexts, particularly for purely basic research with long-term visions. However, collaborations can also generate complicated intellectual property and patent issues. For shorter term research with commercial applications as a goal, this can become a problem if not managed well. Hopefully, the MGI is considering this aspect of this new, exciting commercialization program. The MGI is now about 1 1/2 years old. The MGI has many close links to nanotechnology and the NNI (National Nanotechnology Initiative) including a program for predicting the properties of nanomaterials. Hopefully, the MGI is well and efficiently integrated with the NNI.
Also, hopefully 2013 budget issues do not slow down the MGI. Stay tuned.
MSNBC web page today has posted an excellent brief piece on ten ways nanotech is being used now and people may not even know it. We recommend looking. Number one was band-aids; others are cool; but they finish with an eye-opener…. not necessarily appropriate for a law firm blog arguably ? Please read and enjoy.
Good to see advanced manufacturing and nanotechnology in the popular press again (see link). This was the lead, front page article in Sunday’s forum section of the newspaper I read … bought an “old-fashioned” hard copy to read it!
The OSTP has recently posted a report on advanced manufacturing, which identifies eleven “cross-cutting” technologies. Of these, no. 5 is nanomanufacturing and half of the others directly relate to nanotech (e.g., advanced sensing, advanced materials, biomanufacturing, robotics, flexible electronics). The report is about 70 pages long.
The NNI is now presenting to the public a new signature initiative devoted to sensors. Two thrusts are identified: (1) use of nanotechnology in building sensors, and (2) develop better sensing methods for detecting nanomaterials. An associated white paper provides more details.
This is the fifth signature initiative from the NNI. According to the announcement, past sensor work has been held back due to problems with lack of reliability, reproducibility, and robustness. Sensors apply to a broad spectrum of industries, including energy, health, and defense. Certainly, after 9-11, sensors were identified as a key technology associated with homeland defense. Hence, federal thrusts in this sector would seem to make sense.
Some references to commercialization are present. For example, the announcement refers to US Patent No. 7,889,954 as an example of the type of technology upon which they want to build (from the Sailor group at University of San Diego). However, as if often the case with the federal government announcements, the commercialization issues at stake lack detail. For example, no patent studies are noted as part of what is important commercially in work to date. No analysis of the Bayh-Dole system in this sector or of the history of licensing or venture funding for sensor technology is noted. Brief reference to nanomanufacturing is noted (nanomanufacturing is another NNI signature initiative).
The ’954 patent, according to PTO records, is assigned to University of California and the federal government, jointly. Federal money apparently was used to develop the invention. The patent abstract for this patent is below:
An embodiment of the invention is a remote sensor that has an optical fiber terminating in a tip. A thin film porous particle having a characteristic optical response that changes in the presence of an analyte is optically coupled and physically attached to the tip of the optical fiber. The optical response of the particle changes in the presence of analyte, and the particle also serves to concentrate analyte. The thin film porous particle can be functionalized toward sensitivity for a predetermined analyte or analytes. A method of remote sensing exposes the remote sensor to an environment to be monitored for analyte. The thin film porous particle is probed with a beam of light. Reflected light is monitored through the optical fiber for a shift in frequency or intensity.
The KSR Supreme Court decision on obviousness is now more that five years old (decision rendered April 30, 2007). Fears existed that after KSR few patents could be ultimately rendered to be “non-obvious.” However, the Federal Circuit recently issued an opinion that provided one more data point that patents can still be “non-obvious.” Indeed, the court said the case represents a “poster child for impermissable hindsight reasoning.” See Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. v. Sandoz, Inc., (Fed. Cir. 2012), decided May 7, 2012.
Obviousness analysis can take many forms. The Otsuka decision takes on one of those forms, the so-called “lead compound” analytical framework.
An important point is that the analysis applies outside the pharmaceutical facts of the case.
The Materials Genome Initiative received a boost this week when the OSTP (Office of Science Technology Policy) announced important updates. Several of these relate directly to nanotechnology.
For example, the NNI (National Nanotechnology Initiative) has now set fourth its fourth signature initiative, called Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure (NKI). A key aspect of NKI is predicting the properties of nanomaterials. The prior three initiatives related to nanomanufacturing, nanosolar, and nanoelectronics.
In addition, Lockheed Martin is leading a new carbon nanostructure consortium.
Hopefully, concrete action will flow from these important updates, in contrast to mere “bureaucratic shuffling” or “talking for the sake of talking.” Private sector involvement, reflected in the Lockheed work, is critical. Good to see executive action (or at least action from the executive branch). More information can be found in this link and also this other link.
Carbon nanotubes continue to demonstrate amazing versatility. For example, IBM recently announced 9 nm transistors that outperform silicon. Nanocomp makes larger carbon nanotube structures and show, on their web page, 32 foot sheets. The web page, www.nano.gov, is doing a better job in 2012 compared to 2011 in conveying updates in the nanotech world, including the IBM development of the 9 nm CNT transistor.
The carbon nanotubes are a central theme in the nanotech patent literature. For example, among the 11,256 US 977 class nanotech patent publications, 37.1% of them mention carbon nanotube or nanotubes.
It would be good, many would argue, if the United States could develop a coherent, dependable policy to to commit to develop carbon nanotube technology, and similar nanotech wonders. The benefits will range from 9 nm to 32 foot technologies. Defense will be a leading driver to push the envelope on new materials leading to new products. Private sector venture capital priorities will rise and fall, which is fine, but US policy can promote a more stable, dependable effort to drive the future.
This year is the ten year anniversary for a leading nanotechnology conference, the Nanotechnology for Defense Conference (NT4D). The call for abstracts indicates a February 18, 2012 initial deadline. The conference will be held August 6-10 in Summerlin, Nevada.
Defense is one of the fundamental and perhaps the most stable pillar for nanotechnology commercialization, along with other pillars such as bio nanotechnology and energy. The history of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) interest in nanotechnology is noted in the Foreward of Ratner and Ratner’s book, Nanotechnology and Homeland Security, 2004 (written by James Murday, Office of Naval Research). The DoD interest in nanotechnology can be “clearly identified as early as the late 1970′s when its Ultrasubmicron Electronics Research (USER) program.” The DoD had a long history for research in the miniaturization of electronics. Early efforts focused on 2 nm structures and led to superlattice technologies. Programs in the 1980′s sought to exploit new tools like STM and AFM. In the 1990′s, DARPA initiated an ULTRA program for ultra fast, ultra dense electronics program. In addition, the Office of Naval Research began a program in nanostructured coatings. By 1997, the importance of nanotechnology to the DOD led to its designation as a “strategic research area.” When the NNI was created in 2001, the DoD wan an “enthusiastic supporter.”
Continue reading this entry
The magazine, Technology Review, provided a colorful, short feature on a leading nanomanufacturing company, Nanocomp Technologies in its last issue (pages 80-83 for the print version). In the U.S. presidential election year of 2012, manufacturing will be a leading theme for economic policy debate, and high tech and intellectual property aspects of manufacturing will be a particular focal point for U.S. concerns. Ironically, Nanocomp Technologies is located in New Hampshire, site of the primary this week. Nanocomp makes carbon nanotube (CNT) yarns, sheets, and related products. The materials’ weight savings have energy efficiency implications.
In looking at the Nanocomp webpage, I noted a number of their prior press releases explaining receipt of SBIR funding, confirming the important role SBIR funding can play for nanotechnology and cleantech. For example, a March 24, 2008 press release announced a DOD SBIR. Their most recent press release, November 16, 2011, notes they were selected by the DOD for a program which would include creating a path toward commercialization for civilian industrial use, as well as supply to the DOD and NASA. On SBIR updates, Congress recently passed legislation renewing the SBIR program for which Foley has provided expert commentary.
We noted the carbon nanotube industry in our October 22, 2011 blog includng reference to a recent review of the industry and the leading CNT producers. 2012 should prove to be an important year for the growth of nanomanufacturing, both in a bulk volume aspect and also in a more refined, strategic aspect.
It has now been about seven weeks since the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) was announced by the Obama Administration. Not too much public activity appears to have happened over these seven weeks (the University Materials Council, not surprisingly, endorsed the MGI in a July 27, 2011 letter). We noted the MGI in our June 25, 2011 blog, and will attempt to follow MGI developments particularly as applied to nanotech and cleantech. The Obama administration is apparently seeking $100M for FY 2012 funding and will begin "roadmap" work to develop the ideas more.
The MGI is summarized in an 18 page "white paper," and relates to …
Continue reading this entry
The NNI’s nano.gov website was finally – after two months – updated this week with a White House press release on President Obama’s visit to Carnegie Mellon University and announcements re Advanced Manufacturing programs (AMP). It was good to see the webpage back in action. Earlier this year, OSTP’s Travis Earles (who has since left for an industry position) had told audiences how the webpage was finally being upgraded after a long wait. The site was upgraded, true, but then promptly stopped being updated (the last news update was April 25, 2011). Hopefully, if NNI is to thrive and drive a better future, the updates will be frequent, certainly more frequent that every other month.
The Department of Energy, in a move related to AMP, announced recent manufacturing job training initiatives.
One of the most interesting and important nanotech high tech companies is Cambridge, Mass. platform company, Nano-Terra, which has a history now over five years and traces back to George Whitesides, per their webpage (www.nanoterra.com). This week, Nano-Terra received an additional round of funding for $17.2M per SEC filings and media reports. Nano-Terra, briefly, seeks to commercialize micro and nanotechnologies like soft lithography and partner with large corporations. The company reflects many of the pivotal issues surrounding nanotech commercialization as discussed at least week’s NNI at Ten meeting in Washington D.C. These include, for example, university licensing, government funding, partnering with large corporations, the platform approach to corporate business planning, venture capital, etc.
Another is who is getting rich from nanotechnology!?
Whitesides also is co-author of the wonderful nanotech book, No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale, 2009 (co-author: Felice C. Frankel).
To read more from the Nano-Terra current Web page:
Continue reading this entry
I had the pleasure last week of listening to Steven Chu’s speech at the "NNI at Ten" event in Washington DC. Some, I have heard, were disappointed in his speech for delivering "old" material and not saying too much about the commercialization and the policies associated with nanotech. I certainly had noted he focused on more technical issues, demonstrating his ability to comprehend nanotech. He did not intend apparently to inspire us with high volume enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I was pleased that he participated in the NNI at Ten event.
Since President Obama came to the front of the national scene over the past several years, I have noticed he does not use the term "nanotechnology" much in his speeches and dialog with the press. Perhaps I have missed it, but I have noted that for some time now and ongoing, occasional google searches seem to confirm my note (feel free to send me examples if you know of them). He certainly makes plenty of references to clean technology, biotechnology, and other technologies – so why not nanotechnology? As the NNI at Ten event confirmed, the federal government continues to spend billions on the nanotech effort including responsible research on the environmental, health, and safety aspects of nanotech. Nanotech needs for Obama (and Chu) to not just coordinate nanotech research funding in a ‘behind the scenes" mode, but also champion the cause publicly. More is needed.
In view of Bayh-Dole’s ("B-D") thirty year anniversary celebration on December 12, 2010, we offer a "Top Ten" list of leading Bayh-Dole issues. The B-D system is critical to federal priorities such as nanotech and cleantech.
- Stanford v. Roche now to be heard at the Supreme Court. e.g., How are patent ownership issues impacted when university researchers collaborate with the private sector.
- Recent march-in challenge against Genzyme. If it succeedes, what will the larger impact be? e.g., investor confidence.
- Job creation. How do we measure the amount of job creation and economic impact caused by Bayh-Dole? Need to move beyond anecdotes and occasional (if not rare) examples of block buster success stories. Who is measuring?
- Will the Kauffman Foundation proposal gain steam, advocating that university professors have more control over their patents vis-a-vis the technology transfer office?
- Will the government respond to industry complaints about licensing from universities and federal labs? Many of these complaints have driven the search outside of the US. More particularly, is the government tuned into the needs of venture capital and small business?
- How to balance the tension between desire for US job creation and economic health, and companies’ needs and desires for international freedom to move and deal with whom they want, apart from nationality. What has been the impact of the B-D territoriality restrictions?
- Reducing the burden of reporting requirements, particularly when it appears the government does not currently do too much with all the reported information. The government should manage this more than any other organization including, for example, AUTM.
- Making technology transfer with the federal labs easier. Is it easy or possible to spin out companies from a federal lab?
- How does Bayh-Dole impact particular economic sectors which may have different needs and moral contexts, e.g., defense, versus health, versus energy?
- Avoiding "arrogance" (or complacency) and learning from other systems. The US system seems to work to a certain degree and offer an improvement over the pre-1980 scene. Other countries have sought to emulate US B-D. However, other countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, and Israel, for example, have had successes in the area of government support for research and economic growth. The US should study these systems and adapt as appropriate.
These are only ten of many. For example, another includes understanding better the balance between exclusivity and non-exclusivity in licensing, as well as exclusivity based on field of use. Another example is better understanding how B-D impacts federal priorities like nanotechnology and the NNI. More to come, and comments welcome on what issues you see!
The Ten Year NNI Nanotech conference concluded today in Washington D.C. I had to leave mid-day but – summing up the conference – it was hard to leave.
Today, for example, Francis Collins spoke about the NIH view on nano, as did the leader of NIST. No other event has pulled together so much "firepower" on nanotechnology in one forum. Congratulations to the organizers of the event for this success. Attendance and energy was strong.
More will be written in this forum about this conference, and likely www.nano.gov will post slides.
To comprehend this, one has to just think back 10 years ago, then 20 years ago, then 30 years ago. When did you first use a personal computer? When did you first buy a cell phone? When did you first surf the web? When did you first start emailing regularly? When did you first google search on a device which fits in your pocket? When did you…well you get the point. Nanotech is right there in our technology revolution, helping to miniaturize our IT.
Problems with venture capital and technology transfer will need to be addressed. If these issues are better dealt with, nanotech will accelerate even more!
Today’s conference in Washington D.C. on the "NNI at Ten" theme continued into a second day, attracting hundreds (likely well over 500 persons). One main theme linking together many inputs was that nanotech is advancing steadily following a hype and bubble bursting phase which often plagues technical innovation. Over twenty speakers presented on what they believe is important about nanotech and the NNI, with speakers ranging from academic, to the government, to startup companies, and to large behemoth companies. Many noted that public perception of nanotechnology is important for allowing this technology to continue to advance.
Continue reading this entry
Today, Wednesday December 8, 2010, was the first day of the three day conference, National Nanotechnology Initiative at Ten: Nanotechnology Innovation Summit in Washington DC, which I attended. Themes for the day included summarizing achievements in the first ten years, recognition that we are still early in the process, need for more commercialization efforts, and the need for collaborations. The first day was called a "workshop" as agency program managers presented updates on what their agencies are doing with nanotech and opportunities for the public.
In particular, much content could be found for nano biotechnology, as well as energy. For example, an announcement was made about a new conference to be held in Washington D.C. on May 25-27, "Science for Our Nation’s Energy Future."
Perhaps the highlight was, at 5:00, the lectures shifted to a "Networking Reception" and "Showcase" which featured an excellent and large array of high quality exhibits from a variety of nanotech-related outfits (at least one hundred).
At least several hundred people attended the event, and the energy was strong. More are expected for the main program, days two and three. One estimate late morning today said the registration count was now at 680 persons and growing with late registrants. Stay tuned! Particularly interesting, for example, will be dialog with members of the venture capital community and how they perceive funding of nanotech companies.
Nanotechnology can perhaps connect with mainstream society and its imaginations through the fancifulness of metamaterials and the potential for invisible cloaks (e.g., see Harry Potter movies). Hopefully, this new strain of technology can also capture the interest of those that commercialize things, including venture capital. It certainly is now showing up in the patent filings as an explosion. Cool stuff this is.
Continue reading this entry
The NNI’s draft strategic plan is available now at www.nano.gov. One of the most interesting aspects of the report (about 40 pages) is the set of three "signature initiatives" near the end, which include:
(1) Nanotechnology for Solar Energy Collection and Conversion
(2) Sustainable Nanomanufacturing – Creating the Industries of the Future
(3) Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond
Continue reading this entry
It looks like a pretty good "party" is being planned at the Gaylord in Washington, DC, over three days, December 8-10. The event is to celebrate and otherwise discuss the NNI at ten years. See impressive speaker list and program at http://www.nsti.org/events/NNI/program/.
Perhaps a theme for the event can be the twin engines of creativity and patient, hard work? Nanotech should not lose its creative imagination as the "cry for jobs" grows, particularly in view of the recent election results.
I would also respectfully submit, for example, that among the many nanotech patents filings, a variety of economic jewels are present. It will take creativity and patient, hard work to find them and make a buck, if not a job.
Bayh-Dole has made it now to the Supreme Court, based on a decision today by the Supreme C. to grant cert. In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether patents on inventions that arise from federally funded research must go to the university, Stanford University, where the inventor worked.
Because federal funding via the NNI is a major force in nanotech and cleantech, this case has many implications. Also, the era of government and private sector joint development is here, further making this case important. Perhaps Stanford’s locale in Silicon Valley adds further spice to the case and high tech research. Indeed, one client in the area sent an email as soon as the decision to grant cert was announced.
Going back to the start of litigation, Stanford sued pharmacutical giant Roche, alleging infringement of technology for detecting HIV levels in a patient’s blood. However, the university said it owns the technology because its discoverer worked at Stanford. Complicating this "mess": Roche says Stanford researcher Mark Holodniy also signed a contract that gave the company the patent to anything that resulted from their collaboration.
See, Stanford University v. Roche, 09-1159. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allows universities to retain the rights to research funded by federal grants.
This is not a simple case. To the extent the Supreme Court likes to soar to the heights of complicated legal and policy analysis, it has found a nice case to chew on!