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.
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, 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.
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.
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?
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