One important nanotechnology is Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD). In ALD, one can build up molecular layers on surfaces at the angstrom and nanoscale levels. The technology traces back to the 1960′s and 1970′s. ALD has a variety of application areas including defense and cleantech (e.g., solar cells, batteries) as well as the semiconductor industry and medical devices.
This week, new patent litigation was announced involving ALD. Its interesting and important that the patent at issue, US Patent No. 6,812,157, is not categorized as a 977 nanotechnology patent (the plaintiff is Atomic Precision Systems and the defendants include Jusung Engineering, Micron Technology, Intel, and IBM. More and more ALD patents and patent filings are emerging. For example, the nanotechnology 977 patent publication database shows a rapidly growing role for ALD. As of today, 106 of the 977 patent publications recite ALD or atomic layer deposition in the abstract or claim. Of these, most of them (76) were published in 2010-today, and 2011 showed more (40) compared to 2010 (30).
Nanotechnology does not get the buzz it used to. ALD, however, illustrates how quietly nanotechnology pushes the technology boundaries, decade after decade, and contributes commercially in a variety of diverse applications. ALD is now positioned as a leading nanomanufacturing method. At a recent nanotechnology conference, the ALD commercialization talk from Cambridge NanoTech was a highlight. Another company, ALD NanoSolutions, recently announced progress with defense applications.
We wanted to review a case which we can call the case of the “self-serving” NDA. Let me explain:
One critical application of nanotechnology is in sensing, whether used for medical diagnostics or cleantech. For example, the NNI has recently produced a fifty page report on nanotech sensing at www.nano.gov (“Report of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Workshop, May 5-7, 2009”). When a sector of nanotechnology, such as sensing, becomes the subject of patent and/or trade secret litigation, this signals that the market for the technology has arrived.
One recent IP litigation has been focused on commercial products for nanotech sensing for glucose monitoring, and an important decision was just rendered. In reading these developments, lessons can be learned with respect to non-disclosure agreements, patent filings, and joint development. Many companies, of course, need to pursue joint development strategies in the real world, and the risks associated with joint development must be managed wisely.
To Read More about the Case of the Self-Serving NDA:
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In 1987, Eastman Kodak researchers Dr. Ching W. Tang and Steven VanSlyke opened the gates to a flurry of innovations related to organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). More than 20 years later, Kodak announced today that it will sell substantially all the assets associated with its OLED business to a group of LG companies.
With Tang and VanSlyke’s novel two-layer structure (with separate hole and electron transporting layers) as a starting point, researchers have steadily continued to make patentable advancements in this relatively new field. From new device architectures incopororating nanoscaled charge carrier transport promoters, to new and stable organic semiconductors capable of emitting and absorbing at various wavelengths, OLED technology has been incorporated into solid-state lighting products and displays applications such as screens for mobile phones, digital cameras, and televisions. The technology has also spurred innovations related to flexible electronics, flexible displays, and even contributed to knowledge for photovoltaics applications.
In addition to selling their OLED business, Kodak has entered into a technology cross-license agreement with LG, bringing an end to patent litigation related to their imaging technologies, and a push to end the U.S. International Trade Commission’s investigations following complaints by both companies.