Patenting Nanotech Inventions: Terminology and Technology


Jeffrey A. Lindeman Nixon Peabody LLP

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Although still an emerging science, nanotechnology is already spanning and combining many diverse technologies, from biotechnology to circuits and machines to molecules. Despite its broad technological range, nanotechnology inventions are all characterized in terms of their small scale, their very small scale. To say size is important in nanotechnology is to understate its scientific premise. Size is everything in nanotechnology. Therefore, to patent nanotechnology, the patentable nanoscale features of the invention should be the focus of the patent specification and the patent claims.

Nanotechnology has been defined as research and technology development on the atomic, molecular, or macromolecular scale, where dimensions range from approximately 1–100 nm. Research and development efforts in nanotechnology seek to provide not only a fundamental understanding of phenomena and materials at the nanoscale but also to create and use structures, devices, and systems that have unique properties and functions because of their very small size. These unique properties and functions include mechanisms, operation and control at the nanoscale, as well as integration of nanoscale structure and processes into larger material components, systems, and architectures. Within these larger scale assemblies, the control and construction of their structures and components remains at the nanometer scale.