Patent analysis

Besides scientific publications about space-relevant nanotechnology developments also patent applications were of interest within the ANTARES study. Patent specifications contain first indications of the state of the art changing developments, of nascent markets as well as of changes in the competition. Interesting in this context is in particular the temporal development of patent publications, from which early indications of innovations and market changes can be derived. To be considered here is that the process from the patent application to the market readiness of the appropriate product could take up to seven years, depending on different factors, like the importance of the invention, the kind of industrial branch and the company size (see Haeusser 1984).

The patent analysis was accomplished both at international level and separately for the leading space-technology nation USA as well as for Europe. As data sources here, the data bases WPINDEX of the world patent office WIPO, USPATFULL of the US patent office USPTO as well as EUROPATFULL of the European patent office EPA were used. The two latter data bases have the advantage that full texts of the patent documents are searchable and thus contain more searchable information.

In order to analyze patent applications regarding space-relevant applications of nanotechnology, the following search strategies were applied:

• Search for nanotechnology applications within IPC (International Patent Classification) B64G (Cosmonautics; vehicles or equipment therefore)

• Search for space applications within IPC (International Patent Classification) B82 (Nanotechnology)13

• Search for terms in context with nanotechnology and space in all patent classes (see table 5)

For the patent analyses the same search terms were used as for the literature analysis (see 3.1). For the search without restriction of the patent classification, the group B41J ("Typewriters; Selective Printing mechanisms...") was excluded, because a multiplicity of hits resulted from the phrase "satellite drop", which designates a problem within ink jet printer technology and therefore has no relevance for space technology. The search strategies and their results are summarized in table 5.

The following results were achieved:

• Within the space technology classification (IPC B64G) nearly no patent applications relating to nanotechnology exist.

• Within the nanotechnology classification (IPC B82B) no patent ap

13 IPC B82 was introduced as patent classificaion in the year 2000

plication relating to space technology exist.

• In the remaining patent classifications a substantial number of documents should be registered, which deal with both aspects of nano-technology and space.

Within space technology patent class there are few nanotechnology patents

In other patent classes a multiplicity of patents with an indirect relation to nanotechnology and space exists

No.

Search terms

Database

Hits

1

B64G/IC and (nano? or self assembl monolay? or HEMT or quant? dot? or quant? well? or magnetoresist? or VCSEL or SWCNT? or fulleren? or single electron) not nanometer? not nanogra? not nanosatel? not nanosec? not nano-sec?

WPINDEX

1

USPATFULL

12

EUROPATFULL

4

2

B82B/IC and (spacecraft? or satellite? or spaceflight? or space system?) not nanometer? not nanogra? not nanosatel? not nanosec? not nano-sec?

WPINDEX

0

USPATFULL

0

EUROPATFULL

0

3

(nano? or self assembl? monolayer? or HEMT or quantum dot? or quantum well? or magnetoresistiv? or VCSEL or SWCNT? or fulleren? or single electron) and (spacecraft? or satellite? or spaceflight? or space system?) not nanometer? not nanogra? not nanosatel? not nanosec? not nano-sec? not B41J/IC

WPINDEX

63

USPATFULL

748

EUROPATFULL

168

4

Nanosatel? or nano-satel?

WPINDEX

5

USPATFULL

11

EUROPATFULL

1

Table 5: Database searches for the patent analysis of space-relevant nanotechnology applications

Table 5: Database searches for the patent analysis of space-relevant nanotechnology applications

Although a significant number of patent documents could be identified, in which both nanotechnology as well as space search terms appear (especially in the database USPATFULL), no accurate statement can be made about the kind of linkage of the two topics and their relevance for the patent application without further analyses. The fact that in the database WPINDEX, which contains more compressed information than the full text databases USPATFULL and EUROPATFULL, the number of hits is significantly smaller than in the other data bases, shows that the core content of the patent application often does not deal with spacerelevant nanotechnology applications. Only a full text analysis reveals a significant number of patent documents containing both nanotechnology and space-relevant search terms. It should be mentioned that in this context patent applications in the USA are significantly higher than in Europe, which is a logical consequence of the fact, that the USA is the world leading space nation.

The temporal development of patent applications in the context of space and nanotechnology shows a remarkable increase in the last years in particular for the USA (see illustration 4). This indicates innovative developments within some fields of nanotechnology which may have implications for space technology in the future. To derive more concrete statements, it was analysed to which patent classification the identified patent documents can be assigned. Here the main classification (IPC Main index) of the patents was queried, which indicates, to which field of technology the innovation basically refers to. The analyses were performed only for the database USPATFULL of the US-American patent office, as by far the most hits were registrated in this database.

160 i 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 □ USPATFULL □ EUROPATFULL

1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 □ USPATFULL □ EUROPATFULL

Significant increase of patents with an indirect relation to nanotechno-logy and space in the USA

Illustration 4: Number of patent applications containing space and nanotechnology relevant search terms from 1990 to 2001. For further explanations see text above

Share of IPC-classes with regard to relevant patents

Source: USPATFULL

H 01 BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS

C 12 BIOCHEMISTRY

H 04 ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE

G 01 MEASURING; TESTING

H 03 BASIC ELECTRONIC CIRCUITRY

A 61 MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE

G 06 COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING

C 07 ORGANIC CHEMISTRY_

H 01 BASIC ELECTRIC ELEMENTS

C 12 BIOCHEMISTRY

H 04 ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE

G 01 MEASURING; TESTING

H 03 BASIC ELECTRONIC CIRCUITRY

A 61 MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE

G 06 COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING

C 07 ORGANIC CHEMISTRY_

Illustration 5: Breakdown of relevant patent applications with regard to IPC-classes

The relevant IPC-classes can be assigned roughly to the following technology fields:

• Electronics, Data Processing and Communication

• Biochemistry, Medicine

• Physical Measuring Techniques

• Chemistry, Materials

A further breakdown of patent classes to patent groups shows, that the following patent groups constitute a portion of over one per cent of the total number of identified patent documents (arranged according to descending hit frequency):

IPC-Group

Description

C 12 Q001-68

Measuring or testing processes involving enzymes or microorganisms involving nucleic acids

H 01 L021-00

Processes or apparatus adapted for the manufacture or treatment of semiconductor or solid state devices or of parts thereof

C 07 H021-04

Compounds containing two or more mononucleotide units having separate phosphate or polyphosphate groups linked by saccharide radicals of nucleoside groups, e.g. nucleic acids

H 01 S003-19

Semiconductor lasers comprising PN junctions, e.g. hetero-or double- hetero-structures

H 04 B010-00

Transmission systems employing beams of corpuscular radiation, or electromagnetic waves other than radio waves, e.g. light, infra-red

Table 6: IPC-Groups of relevant patent documents with a portion of more than one per cent of the total number of identified patent documents (Source: USPATFULL)

Table 6: IPC-Groups of relevant patent documents with a portion of more than one per cent of the total number of identified patent documents (Source: USPATFULL)

From that analyses it can be derived that a significant number of patent applications in the context of space and nanotechnology can be assigned to the following topics:

• Satellite communication systems (semiconductors and optoelectronics for data communication)

• Biomedical testing procedures with application potential in manned and unmanned space flight

Here again it should be stated that the main application ranges of the identified patent documents lie outside space applications and that only a full text analysis of the patent documents reveals a relation to space and nanotechnology.

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