Asia and US Lead Way on Nanotech Patents

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2006 11:21 am    Post subject: Asia and US Lead Way on Nanotech Patents Reply with quote

Asia and the US are leading the way in the rush to secure commercial returns from nanotechnology, with Europe lagging behind, according to the first global report on patenting activity in the sector.

The annual rate of filing nanotech patents has trebled over the past five years, says the report by Marks & Clerk, international patent attorneys, with Asia leading, the US in second place and Europe far behind. Nanotechnology involves the exploitation of materials less than a millionth of a millimetre in scale.

In nanoelectronics, the area in which commercialisation is most advanced, 51 per cent of "patent families" (groups of related patents) were filed by Japanese companies and organisations, compared with 24 per cent by US and just 8 per cent by European applicants.

"Significant European investment in nanotechnology research has not been matched by a rush to patent - and therefore benefit commercially - from this research," said Ottilia Saxl, chief executive of the UK-based Institute of Nanotechnology. "In contrast, companies and publicly funded institutions in the Far East and the US have put their commercial stake in the ground through IP protection."

The European Commission estimates that Europe spent $2.4bn (1.9bn, 1.3bn) in 2004 on nanotech research and development, with $1.7bn coming from public sources, compared with $3.6bn for the US (including $1.5bn public funding) and $2.8bn for Japan ($900m public funding).

"Whilst it is good to see significant public investment in Europe, the low number of patents filed shown by our report gives serious cause for concern," said Rhian Granleese, the report's lead author.

Of the 30 leading patent applicants in nanoelectronics, 18 are based in the Far East, 10 in the US and just two in Europe: Philips and Infineon.

The leaders in this field are Fujitsu of Japan, with 62 patent families, and Samsung of South Korea with 56. While large corporations lead Asian patenting in nanoelectronics, activity in the US is led by universities and start-up companies.

On nanoenergy - a vital field of research for future alternative energy sources - the report says: "Surprisingly, none of the well known conventional energy companies feature in the top 20. Many of the fossil fuel energy companies are now trying to portray themselves as dealing in all forms of energy, so we would have expected at least one of these companies to feature."

Sony of Japan has filed 57 nanoenergy patent families since 2000, twice as many as any other company. Many relate to fuel cells. Three big Japanese carmakers, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi, are in the nanoenergy top 20.

On nanotechnology for health and personal care, Europe had stronger representation. The leading company here is L'Oreal, the French cosmetics giant.


This story was originally posted on 8 May 2006.
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