Nanotechnology – New Challenges for Patent Law?

8 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2016 Last revised: 1 Mar 2016

See all articles by Herbert Zech

Herbert Zech

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Juristische Fakultät

Date Written: 2009


Emerging in the nineteenth century, with a focus on classical engineering and chemistry, patent law has seen many technological changes and developments. A relatively new field of technology is associated with the term “nano”. In order to show its impact on patent law, nanotechnology has to be defined and its peculiarities have to be identified. In this first part of the analysis, two important categories of nanotechnology – active and passive nanotechnology – will also be presented. After the scientific issues have been discussed, the analysis turns to the legal aspects of patenting nanotechnological inventions. Due to its peculiarities, nanotechnology raises special problems concerning some patentability requirements. Among these problems are: the patentability of naturally occurring products; the distinction between compound and apparatus claims; and the patentability of selection inventions. The legal discussion focuses on European patent law.

Keywords: nanotechnology, patent, selection invention

Suggested Citation

Zech, Herbert, Nanotechnology – New Challenges for Patent Law? (2009). (2009) 6:1 SCRIPTed 144, Available at SSRN:

Herbert Zech (Contact Author)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Juristische Fakultät ( email )

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