Francisco, CA --- July 24, 2006--- As companies, universities, and government entities
explore the applications of nanomaterials, they have
gone to the patent office in droves - yielding a
continued increase in nanotech patents, which totaled
4,996 U.S. issued patents through 2005.
With so many patents, legal saber-rattling over rights
to intellectual property has already begun. Some
contentious fields are worth the time and expense
of legal defense while others don't present enough
market opportunity to justify the outlay, according
to a new report from Lux Research in collaboration
with Foley & Lardner LLP titled "Nanotech IP
Battles Worth Fighting."
The report finds that the rate of new nanotech patent issuances stalled at
4 percent in 2005 after exceeding 20 percent in the last few years. At the
same time, however, the number of public patent applications for nanotechnology
continued to increase, growing by 52 percent to 2,714 outstanding nanotech
What do these figures indicate? A bottleneck at the USPTO is limiting inventor's
ability to secure intellectual property rights. Crowded patent domains with
overlapping claims have pushed the pendency rate - the time from the submission
of a nanotech patent application to the issuance of a patent - to nearly four
years on average, up from two and half years in 1993.
"With the number of pending public nanotech patent applications in 2005 outnumbering
issued nanotech patents by more than three to one, there is a wave of innovation
that the USPTO has yet to process," said Lux Research analyst Vahé Mamikunian. "When
the dust settles from this influx of inventions, many patent holders will be
wondering just how valuable their innovations are in densely crowded and overlapping
"The flip side of this trend is that the increasing numbers of patents in key
areas of nanotech is opening the door to new licensing opportunities, as patent
owners seek to consolidate groups of patents needed to access those key areas," says
Stephen Maebius, partner in the Intellectual Property Department of law firm
Foley & Lardner LLP.
Lux Research and Foley & Lardner LLP reviewed all issued U.S. patents relating
to eight classes of nanomaterials: 1) carbon nanotubes, 2) metal nanoparticles,
3) aerogels, 4) ceramic nanoparticles, 5) dendrimers, 6) quantum dots, 7) fullerenes,
and 8) nanowires. The analysis reviewed 2,738 patents in total, covering 52,148
relevant claims that cross seven application categories.
Through an exhaustive manual review, each claim in each patent was categorized
by type and application to assess the "white space" and "vulnerability" for
nanomaterial patents in each application category. The results of this assessment
were then mapped against the market potential for each application category
to identify which applications are worth fighting over and which represent
a low opportunity for payoff. Among the report's highlights:
- Carbon nanotube and quantum dot applications
in electronics, where many crowded and vulnerable
patents indicate a high likelihood of legal wrangling,
are battles worth fighting. The large addressable
markets relevant to these nanomaterials justify
the cost of navigating the unfavorable patent outlook.
- In healthcare/cosmetics applications nanomaterials
with crowded or vulnerable patent landscapes like
dendrimers, ceramic nanoparticles, and metal nanoparticles
represent battles worth fighting because of the
broad applicability of these materials to a number
of large addressable markets.
- Hidden opportunities - characterized by a favorable
patent outlook and large market potential - occur
in energy applications of ceramic nanoparticles
like high-performance cathodes in the $48 billion
battery market, and in electronics applications
of nanowires which could keep Moore's Law going
in the next decade.
About Lux Research:
Lux Research provides market intelligence and strategic advice on nanotechnology
and the physical sciences. We help our clients make better decisions to profit
from cutting-edge technologies by tapping into our analysts' unique expertise
and unrivaled network. Our clients include top decision makers at large corporations,
investment professionals at leading financial institutions, CEOs of the most
innovative start-ups, and visionary public policy makers.
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