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Monday, January 10, 2005

U.S. Patent Office Recognizes Nanotechnolgy

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has opened a new classification for NANOTECHNOLOGY . Class 977 includes patents and other disclosure documents:

a. related to research and technology development at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, in the length of scale of approximately 1-100 nanometer range in at least one dimension, and

b. that provides a fundamental understanding of phenomena and materials at the nanoscale and to create and use structures, devices, and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small and/or intermediate size.

Class 977 currently includes only a single digest (DIG 1) and as of 10 January 2005 includes only 413 patents. A number of the patents appear only marginally related to nanotechnology, but do use the word ‘nano’ in the claims.

When faced with a new technology, the Patent Office creates initial collections of prior art called “digests.” The digests are only a rough collection and are not further categorized. A patent search for a method of making fullerenes and a search for a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) would require a review of all of the patents in the digest. Once the Patent Office acquires a larger collection of documents, and sees a need for a more sophisticated categorization, the digest will be broken down into subclasses that may be independently searched.

The digest is a step in the right direction for the Patent Office in terms in increasing the speed and reliability of patent searches. The new nanotechnology classification will be much more useful when it is further refined into subclasses.


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