Figure I13

An artistic representation of fullerene C540, an example of a large closed-shape carbon molecule.

have a visual impact that makes their structure appear to have an aesthetic component. Yet, at the same time, these structures are among the simplest of nanotechnology structures. Considerably more complex structures have already been designed and constructed and there is every guarantee that future designs will have yet more complexity and more aesthetic appeal. In many cases, including such an aesthetic component will be part of an intentional design—many nanotechnology engineers will approach their creations in a manner similar to the style adopted by architects. When there are multiple ways in which desired functionality can be achieved, it will be preferable to seek the design that has aesthetic appeal.

Intellectual-property law provides different mechanisms for protecting the functional and artistic aspects of ideas. Patents are by far the most important mechanism available for protecting functional aspects of inventions. Indeed, as an architect, Buckminster Fuller obtained twenty-eight U.S. patents over the course of his career, many of them directed to geodesic domes and similar structures. Protection of the artistic aspect of ideas is generally provided

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