Nanotechnology and the Law of Patents: A Collision Course
NANOTECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY EVALUATION, Geoffrey Hunt and Michael Mehta, eds., University of Toronto Press, Forthcoming
25 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2005
In the ill-defined world of "nanotechnology," a simple sphericule or rod of carbon - the "buckyball" or "nanotube" has been patented not once, but more than 250 times in slightly different forms. The dream of nanotechnology - engineering substances at the scale of one nanometer - reveals many of the dangers of an overprotective patent system. Paradoxically, an overprotective patent system threatens the potential benefits of a fully realized nanotechnology industry. The patent system is supposed to generate a limited monopoly for a specific invention so that the patent holder may extract monopoly rents for a limited time. But by its very nature, nanotechnology complicates the assumptions that underlie the principles of patenting inventions. Nanotechnology bridges the conceptual gaps between substance and information, hardware and software, and technology and science.
Keywords: patents, nanotechnology, intellectual property
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