We’re seeing more interest in patenting of micro- and nanotechnology inventions. Red Herring recently ran an interesting article describing a report by Lux Research entitled “The Nanotech Intellectual Property Landscape,” showing that, as of March, there were 3,818 nanotechnology patents issued by the USPTO with 1,777 more pending. The report describes a “crowded and entangled landscape” where startups, researchers and large companies are filing on anything that could be a patent in hopes for a windfall in the future.

This gold rush mentality of nanotech entrepreneurs has university and corporate researchers alike filing patent applications left and right, betting that their patents will generate sweet deals later. Often, without a lot of forethought.

Lux examined 1,084 U.S. patents that represented 19,485 claims on dendrimers, quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, and nanowires. Lux reported that the increase in filings has overwhelmed the USPTO, often with overlapping terms like “nanorod” and “nanowire,” so that patents are issuing with broad, overlapping claims, making for some difficult litigation later if commercialization ever materializes.

More on Peter Zura’s Two-Seventy-One Patent Blog, here.

A summary of the Lux report findings can be found here.

Often separating the facts from the hyperbole is quite difficult. On the NanoTech Lex blog, one of the blogs by Anthony Cerminaro, there are some great suggestions for evaluating the claims of nanotechnology companies in his post “7 Questions for Reporters to Ask Nano Companies.” In order to separate out the real nanotech companies from those only using the flash of nanotech language for financial gain, he suggests reporters ask a few basic questions to ascertain whether a company is truly nanotech worthy:

1. Where’s the nano? Show me the nano.

2. Is nanotechnology required for your technology to work? Could microtechnology be substituted instead?

3. Does your technology provide an answer to a specific industrial dilemma, or is it a solution in search of a problem?

4. Who are your competitors/competing technologies? Why is your technology a better solution?

5. Are other researchers/companies following your lead or are you a lone ranger?

6. What’s your market strategy?

7. Have you been approached by other (especially larger) companies about licensing/acquiring your technology?

Cerminaro points out that, like any emerging technology, nanotech is “an uneven amalgamation of science, finance, marketing, personalities and luck” where more than $8 billion per year is being spent on nanotechnology research and development by federal, state and local governments, Fortune 500 companies, and universities. Just be careful out there.

One of Business Week’s blogs, Deal Flow, states in a recent post that with such a fragmented market, few investors are going to be able to understand the competitive landscape. Therefore, many investors might be tempted to believe a patent means more than it does, setting some investors up for a big loss. They point out that very often small cap, nano-companies can skyrocket or plummet on the mere mention of a new patent. Let’s be careful out there.

See more here and here.

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