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U.S. Companies Account for More Than Half of Nanotechnology IP
Note: This article has been updated.
In an effort to stay ahead of the curve on patent and intellectual property happenings, a team of lawyers from McDermott Will & Emery have published a new report on what they call the "fifth technologic revolution": nanotechnology.
"Nanotechnology is going to be an increasingly important driver in the economy," says Carey Jordan, a partner based in the firm's Houston office. Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter between 1 nm and 100 nm in size.
One of the most prevalent legal issues nanotechnology presents for companies is intellectual property, an area in which the firm specializes.
Nanotechnology and its applications will become increasingly more important because it is an "enabling technology," explains Valerie Moore, a patent agent at McDermott and coauthor of the report. "It can touch a variety of industries: mobile phones, computers, pharmaceuticals and drugs, energy. And it can touch a multitude of aspects in an individual sector," she says.
For example, some paints include nanoparticles to enhance the color and stop bacteria growth. Nanoparticles can help decrease the weight of composites, which is useful for sporting equipment and automobile manufacturers. And silver nanoparticles can be incorporated into wound dressings to increase antibacterial properties.
The consumer products, health care, and energy sectors indicate the most growth opportunity with nanotechnology, according to the report. The study ranked the top 25 assignees in 2011 nanotechnology patent literature, and notable U.S.-based corporations on the list include: IBM, 3M, Xerox, General Electric Company, and Lockheed Martin Corporation & Applied NanoStructed Systems. Samsung, based in South Korea, topped the list.
The study, which took several months to research and report, focused on patents granted in the area of nanotechnology.
A question posed by the study authors was whether or not the United States was leading the way in innovation or falling behind countries such as China and India. The research found that the U.S. accounts for more than half of the 2011 nanotechnology patent literaturewhich includes published patent applications, grant parents, and published international patent applications. U.S.-based companies account for more than half of the top assignees (those who have received ownership rights to the IP) in computers and electronics, traditional and alternative energy, healthcare, and medicine, among other fields.
"It looks like we're still the obvious leader," Jordan says. "The U.S. is making new discoveries that are really going to push economic sectors forward."
The report's authors conclude that while it may be too early to identify global epicenters of nanotechnology, the U.S. appears to be headed into a leadership position, given its high level of research and development in the field.