Figure I3

An illustration of a pair of nanocars. Each nanocar has four buckyball "wheels" connected to the "chassis" by an alkyne axle. (Image reproduced with permission of Rice University.)

chassis (Figure I.3). In the spring of 2006, a motor that responds to impacts by light photons was added to the car to provide a propulsion mechanism.3

Nanocars may have important practical applications. For instance, they may be used to carry cargo across nanoscale structures, providing a mechanism for precise movement and placement of materials at very small scales. Such approaches could improve fabrication of small structures, such as by permitting the materials needed in building up an electronic chip to be delivered by a fleet of nanocars more precisely than with conventional techniques and generating fewer defects than possible with traditional methods.

Part of the fascination with these nanocars is that they resemble macroscopic structures that we are all familiar with, and in some ways it is easy to understand the basic properties of their functionality. But at the same time, there were real technological barriers to be overcome in producing structures this small. And the precise mechanism by which they operate is very different from how the macroscopic counterparts operate: A nanocar has no internal combustion engine; it has no passenger compartment; it has no need for windshield wipers, air-conditioning systems, taillights, cupholders, or a host of other systems that conventional cars include. So, to what extent is a nanocar nothing more than a scaled-down version of something well known and to what extent does it represent something patentable? In what ways does patent law as it currently stands speak to these issues?

i. The Structure of a Patent

A patent has two principal components: a written description of the invention and a set of claims (Figure I.4a and b). The claims are intended to set

1. In the method of operation of & ducted rocket comprising a primary combustor containing a solid fuel gas generator for supplying hot fuel gases and partial decomposition products for combining with oxygen acquired from air during flight for producing complete combustion products m a secondary combustor and discharging combustion gases through a nozzle to provide thrust for said duct«) rocket, the improvement in said method of operation of uid ducted rocket for achieving high efficiency in the operation of said ducted rocket comprising incorporating into a solid fuel gas generator composition a solid fuel selected from the group consisting of fuElerenes having a cage structure and derivatives of fulterenes having a cage structure.

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