Intellectual Property Policy and Impact

Chinh H. Pham and Charles Berman

Over the past two decades, the ability to manipulate, control, and measure matter at the atomic scale has led to interesting discovery of novel materials and phenomena, discovery that underlies the multidisciplinary areas of research and development known today as nanotechnology. Nanotechnology, simply put, involves the working and manipulating of matter on a scale that is one billionth of a meter in size.!1! The field spans the spectrum of research and development across many disciplines, including physics, engineering, electronics, materials, molecular biology, and chemistry.

Because the market for nanotechnology-related products and services promises to increase significantly, and with more companies trying to stake out territories while grabbing as much of the intellectual property pie as they can, the value and strategic importance of protecting intellectual property have become crucial in the quest to capture valuable opportunities.

According to the ISI Science Citation Index, in 1987 there were only 237 scientific articles published with the prefix nano- in the title. By 2002, the number had risen to about 10,000. In addition, between 1999 and 2002, according to the Derwent Patents Index, the number of U.S. patents published for nanotechnology almost doubled. A quick search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark database shows that at the end of 2004, there are about 7,780 issued patents and about 9,060 pending applications containing the prefix nano-.

To the extent that many companies are now placing a priority on intellectual property (IP), the building of a strong IP portfolio for strategic and economic purposes will therefore play an important role in whether these companies can create for themselves commercially viable opportunities.

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