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.
The nanotechnology patent filing boom continues. In 2012, the USPTO published 4,098 nanotechnology class 977 applications, which represents a 19.2% increase over last year. By way of comparison, in 2008, the USPTO published only 827 nanotechnology applications, and in 2009, only 1,499. Hence, the number has almost tripled in three years.
This patenting trend is consistent, as we have previously commented in our November 25, September 4, and July 8, 2012 posts. Hopefully, federal policy makers are noticing this important trend and managing well the implications including licensing and litigation. At least 12.4% of the filings report a federal funding statement as required under the Bayh-Dole act.
Patent publications continued last week on Thursday, despite Thanksgiving. We checked. The USPTO continues to be on pace to publish about 4,000 nanotech class 977 patent publications in 2012. This would be a record as the previous high last year was 3,439. This record explosion is a solid, long-term trend, representing a substantive increase of at least 15%, as noted in our prior postings this year on September 4, 2012 and July 8, 2012.
The September 3, 2012 issue of C&EN discusses what it calls an “onslaught of nanotech drugs coming down the pike” for FDA review. See article entitled “Mapping Nanotech Drugs’ Landscape,” pp. 46, 48.
The FDA is generating a database for nanotech drugs and currently has 158 entries according to the article. The leading application area is cancer treatment (38%). Most are developed to be administered intravenously (56%). The leading types of formulation are liposomes (39%) and nanoparticles (27%).
The FDA will hold a public workshop in the coming months to get input from stakeholders for how to improve the review process.
The US patent literature confirms the role of nanotechnology innovation in cancer treatment. Of the currently published nanotechnology class 977 patent filings (there are 13,814 of them), 1.9% of them refer to cancer in the title or abstract. Considering the breadth of nanotechnology and bio nanotechnology, this is a significant fraction. Also, 4.3% of them refer to cancer in the title, abstract, or claim. Finally, 14.3% of them mention cancer in the patent somewhere.
We confirm that a nanotechnology patent filing explosion continues at a record pace in 2012 as we enter the final trimester of the year. On July 8, 2012, we reported that the USPTO was on pace to publish a record number of class 977 nanotechnology patent applications (over 4,000). This was also noted in past postings and reflects a solid trend. We checked again today and confirm that the current projection to end of the year remains at over 4,000 (4,043). The broad variety of technology in the filings is startling and in places unconventional. For example, US Patent Publication 2012/0221268 (the last application to publish) relates to quantum computing and lists Microsoft as assignee. Hydraulic fracturing is increasingly referred to in this body of patent literature as there are 16 such publications this year which is double the number compared to the prior three years combined (e.g., Halliburton’s US Patent Publication 2012/0220504).
Hopefully, as many of these patent filings as possible will serve useful commercial purposes and facilitate investment from the private sector as well as from government. The licensing of these patent filings can be analyzed for use in policy formulation and business development. Certainly, the on-going miniaturization of electronic devices – a hot patent topic these days with the Apple v. Samsung developments - will require more developments in nanotechnology including, for example, better batteries, power management, semiconductors, and displays. Clearly, many of the patent filings find applications related to energy, electronics, and bio nanotechnology.
In addition, hopefully the quality of filings remains solid despite the pressures to file applications. Finally, (hopefully!), patent reform will function to improve the patent system and encourage investment, particularly as it applies to nanotechnology inventions.
The USPTO has now in 2012, as of July 5, published 2,137 patent applications falling within the nanotech 977 classification. If that publication rate continues, 2012 will be another record year for nanotech patent application publishing at the USPTO. Aproximately 4,000 will publish this year if the trend continues. Last year, a record 3,439 nanotech 977 applications were published, so an explosively rapid rise is present.
Recently, I was invited to talk to the USPTO about nanotechnology later in July as part of the USPTO’s efforts to train examiners. With all of this nanotechnology patenting effort, clearly we will have a lot to talk about. If readers are interested in working with the PTO on giving talks on technology, please let us know.
Today, a fresh crop of 102 nanotech class 977 patent publications were published at the US PTO. The total now for 2012 is 1,249, which projects to the end of the year to be 3,608. If this continues through 2012, it will be another record year for publishing nanotech 977 patent applications. The numbers go up each year: last year 2011 was 3,439; the year before 2,770 (2010); and before than 1,499 (2009). Hence, the number has more than doubled in but two years.
The 977 nanotech patent applications cover the gamut of nanotech commercial application spaces including personalized medicine, cleantech, defense, semiconductors, and the like. See, for example, US Pat. Pub. 2012/0088235 published April 12, 2012 for rapid DNA sequencing, which is critical to personalized medicine.
Hopefully, government is working with venture capital on how best to adapt the investment systems for commercializing nanotech innovations (e.g., technology transfer from universities and federal labs, including the Bayh-Dole system). Otherwise, many opportunities will be wasted.
2012 is well underway with class 977 nanotech patent publications continuing to issue at high rates. We have noted the explosive growth of 977 nanotech patenting many times previously. To date in 2012, 219 patent publications have published in the 977 patent class, which projects early on to about 2,850 patent publications for the year. While it is too early to project meaningfully for all of 2012, if this pace continues, 2012 will be another year of high rate of nanotech filings and may eclipse last year’s record number (3,439).
The role of government in innovation is a hot topic these days. Of these class 977 patent publications, 33 (15%) appear to have the federal funding contract clause. A total of 40 grants are referred to in the clauses. Defense leads the way with funding of 13 of these grants (33%). In number two slot was the NSF (12); in number three slot was NIH (9); and pulling up the rear was, surprisingly, Energy with only 6.
The defense funding was broken up among Air Force (5), DARPA (3), Navy (3), and Army (2). With cuts in defense spending in the news, time will tell if these numbers can be maintained.
Building on our prior December 10, 2011 blog post, we can now confirm as 2011 finishes that the PTO on Thursday set a record in publishing nanotech 977 patents. The final count for the year was 3,439. Last year was only 2,770, in contrast (2009 was only 1,499).
Will investors and the federal government take notice?
Coincidence? The last patent to publish was to GE, 2011/0320142! Our December 21 blog post noted GE patenting.
Today, Tuesday, was the last day in 2011 in which the US PTO granted patents (actually, the clock is now unfortunately past midnight so seems it was yesterday now). The 977 nanotech patent count for 2011 is now in: 792 nanotech patents were granted (classified as 977 patents). That is up from 780 in 2010, and only 532 in 2009 (432 in 2008 and 352 in 2007). The total number of 977 nanotech patents now stands at 7,464, which means more than 10 percent of them issued in 2011.
The last patent for the year was US Patent No. 8,086,432 for a “Molecular Motor.”
Patent counting has its limits. Nevertheless, one famous company, it is reported, used to keep a “patent clock” in the lobby which kept digital scoreboard of its patenting. Nanotechnology was an important aspect of that patent clock. There is a management idea that good management will only flow if that which is being managed is measured. Maybe.
Undoubtedly, patents will continue to be counted in 2012. Hopefully, that will lead to good management.
Patent filing data are suggesting (if not confirming) that nanotechnology is an increasingly important technology sector in the U.S. For example, in 2004, the US PTO created the 977 nanotechnology class which provides a useful metric. In 2011, the 10,000th nanotechnology 977 patent publication published. The current patent publication count stands at 10,735 (as of December 8, 2011). Of these, 3,223 were published in 2011 which is about 30%. About 70% of the 10,735 have published in the past three years (2009-2011). An explosion this is.
Patent publications are a leading indicator for current trends in patenting. Because patents can take 2-6 years to grant, typically, patent publications are a more sensitive measure for the trends. Moreover, not every patent application is granted, which further skews the analysis if one focuses only on granted patents.
While Thanksgiving this year was a holiday for most of us, filled with visiting relatives, turkey, and football, the US PTO quietly published a bumper crop of nanotech 977 patent applications on Thanksgiving Day – 62 to be precise! Some of my “favorites” include those with applications in cleantech and bionanotech. In addition, the intersection of polymer science and nanotechnology is clearly evident and commercially significant in the nanotech patent literature. Polymeric nanoparticles are an important type of nanoparticle, supplementing inorganic nanoparticle systems like quantum dots.
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One aspect of the current patent reform debate is whether the CREATE Act will be preserved or modified. Briefly, the CREATE Act seeks to promote joint research activities and allows, in essence, one to exclude as prior art selected patent filings from other parties to a joint research agreement. The statute requires that the patent application be amended in a way to reflect the CREATE Act, so one can monitor patents and published applications for use of the CREATE Act.
The current version of H.R. 1249 purports to preserve in full the specifics and the intentions of the CREATE Act. For example, the House Committee Notes refer to this issue on pages 4 and 43.
We briefly checked nanotech class 977 patents and patent publications for use of the CREATE Act. For the granted patents, only seven 977 patents refer to joint research agreements and list the parties to the agreement. For nanotech class 977 patent publications, only 11 patent publications refer to joint research agreements and refer to the parties of the agreement. Hence, while the CREATE Act may be important, statistically, the CREATE act is not being invoked very frequently, at least in the nanotech space. One point noted is that many of the nanotech 977 patent documents resorting to the CREATE Act involve parties located outside the United States.
Patents are much in the press these days with respect to patent reform legislation, recently passed by the House and Senate. More quietly on the patent front, however, the US PTO today granted its 7,000th class 977 nanotechnology patent (patents grant each Tuesday, and the total count for 977 patents now stands at 7,001). The grant is part of the larger drive where soon the PTO will grant its 8,000,000th patent!
The 7,000th nanotech patent is US Patent No. 7,968,609 assigned to Prototech AS, a Norwegian company. The patent relates to sol-gel processing to make mixed gels and nanoparticles (sol-gel is a critical aspect of nanotechnology). Application in the ’609 patent focuses on the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Hence, it is a cleantech patent. The patent is also assigned the subclass 773 which is for nanoparticle patents.
The US PTO now grants many more 977 patents than they have in the past (roughly double the number). This year (prorated), the PTO is granting at a rate of 770 per year. Last year saw 780 patents grant. In contrast, the numbers is past years were far less (2009: only 530; 2008: only 431; 2007:only 344; 2006: only 276).
In the past, many commentators have discussed the potential for a nanotechnology patent thicket. This useful PTO program for classifying 977 nanotechnology patents can help interested parties efficiently sort through the patent literature and avoid that thicket.
I was curious about which law firms obtain the most class 977 nanotech patents.
So I searched the US PTO public database for granted patents focusing on the legal representative search field combined with the 977 classification search field. I searched firms which, from my experience, seemed to be active with nanotechnology. Also, I searched the top 25 patenting firms listed in Intellectual Property Today each year.
Best I can tell, as of June 21, 2011, four firms "float to the top" with having more than one hundred class 977 nanotechnology patents. Three of the four are large IP "boutiques" (Oblon, Spivak (176 patents); Fitzpatrick, Cella (174 patents, with virtually all of them listing the same company as assignee); and Fish & Richardson (112 patents).
The fourth firm is the only general practice firm: Foley & Lardner (109 patents, sponsor of this blog).
Congratulations to these firms for their contributions to nanotechnology patenting.
Also, most likely, the PTO will grant the 8,000th class 977 nanotech patent next Tuesday, June 28.
We have commented before about the rapid rise of nanotech 977 patenting (see our May 27, 2011 blog entry, for example). This past week (June 9, 2011), a large number, 78, of new patent applications published under the 977 nanotech classification, which again validates the proposition that nanotech patenting is increasing. I continue to be impressed by the diverse applications and the diverse applicants.
Too bad that the www.nano.gov web page covering the NNI does not seem to be updated much these days (last news continues to be April 25, 2011). Five of the 78 patents had a government funding clause - I know the government is interested in what is getting patented with its funds as an indicator of commercialization trends. Time to update the NNI web page???
The USPTO is publishing triple the number of 977 patent publications compared to only several years ago! What gives?
For example, I noticed that yesterday, May 26, 2011, the USPTO published 72 nanotech 977 patent publications. That struck me as a lot to review if you want to follow nanotechnology. The week before was 65; the week before that was 63; and the week before that was 73. Thus far in 2011, the USPTO publishes on average about 58 per week. So this week was not unusual, unless you look at the recent past.
In 2010, the USPTO published 53 patents in the 977 category per week.
2009 provided only 29 per week; and 2008 only 16; and 2007 only 22.
Hence, in essence, the 977 publication rate has tripled in the past several years.
Nanotechnology, clearly, is a central theme in innovation growth in the United States. Yet, we see dialog along the lines of, “it does not matter if it is nanotech….we just care about the result and not if nanotech was used to get the result. Or, nanotechnology is not an industry.”
Clearly, innovators and those commercializing innovation see nanotech as important, however it is packaged as an “industry” or not!
The NNI, university, and federal laboratory research continue to be central drivers for nanotech. Note also that the NNI has a new Web page format at www.nano.gov. Excellent step ahead. However, unfortunately, the new Web page is not being regularly updated. In contrast, the Department of Energy Web page prolifically informs the public of new developments.
Each Tuesday, including today, November 9, 2010, a fresh crop of new patents are published by the US PTO. Today, for example, 16 new nanotechnology class 977 patents issued. To date, 2010 has been a bumper year for the 977 type of nanotech patents, as the PTO has granted 674 nanopatents with seven Tuesdays to go. That is a very large increase over 2009 (530 nanopatents); 2008 (431 nanopatents); 2007 (344 nanopatents); and 2006 (276 nanopatents). There are 6,510 of these 977 nanopatents as of today.
Who is patenting?