About Intellectual Property IP Training IP Outreach IP for… IP and... IP in... Patent & Technology Information Trademark Information Industrial Design Information Geographical Indication Information Plant Variety Information (UPOV) IP Laws, Treaties & Judgements IP Resources IP Reports Patent Protection Trademark Protection Industrial Design Protection Geographical Indication Protection Plant Variety Protection (UPOV) IP Dispute Resolution IP Office Business Solutions Paying for IP Services Negotiation & Decision-Making Development Cooperation Innovation Support Public-Private Partnerships The Organization Working with WIPO Accountability Patents Trademarks Industrial Designs Geographical Indications Copyright Trade Secrets WIPO Academy Workshops & Seminars World IP Day WIPO Magazine Raising Awareness Case Studies & Success Stories IP News WIPO Awards Business Universities Indigenous Peoples Judiciaries Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions Economics Gender Equality Global Health Climate Change Competition Policy Sustainable Development Goals Enforcement Frontier Technologies Mobile Applications Sports Tourism PATENTSCOPE Patent Analytics International Patent Classification ARDI – Research for Innovation ASPI – Specialized Patent Information Global Brand Database Madrid Monitor Article 6ter Express Database Nice Classification Vienna Classification Global Design Database International Designs Bulletin Hague Express Database Locarno Classification Lisbon Express Database Global Brand Database for GIs PLUTO Plant Variety Database GENIE Database WIPO-Administered Treaties WIPO Lex - IP Laws, Treaties & Judgments WIPO Standards IP Statistics WIPO Pearl (Terminology) WIPO Publications Country IP Profiles WIPO Knowledge Center WIPO Technology Trends Global Innovation Index World Intellectual Property Report PCT – The International Patent System ePCT Budapest – The International Microorganism Deposit System Madrid – The International Trademark System eMadrid Article 6ter (armorial bearings, flags, state emblems) Hague – The International Design System eHague Lisbon – The International System of Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications eLisbon UPOV PRISMA Mediation Arbitration Expert Determination Domain Name Disputes Centralized Access to Search and Examination (CASE) Digital Access Service (DAS) WIPO Pay Current Account at WIPO WIPO Assemblies Standing Committees Calendar of Meetings WIPO Official Documents Development Agenda Technical Assistance IP Training Institutions COVID-19 Support National IP Strategies Policy & Legislative Advice Cooperation Hub Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) Technology Transfer Inventor Assistance Program WIPO GREEN WIPO's Pat-INFORMED Accessible Books Consortium WIPO for Creators WIPO ALERT Member States Observers Director General Activities by Unit External Offices Job Vacancies Procurement Results & Budget Financial Reporting Oversight

Patent Expert Issues: Nanotechnology

Among the emerging technologies, nanotechnology raises particularly high expectations in a wide range of areas affecting daily life. Nanotechnology is a science, which operates at an extremely small scale: between 1 and 100 nanometers (1 to 100 billionths of a meter). To put it into perspective, that’s smaller than a bacterium and close to the size of a single atom. At this scale interesting and potentially promising phenomena such as statistical and quantum mechanical effects become evident. Therefore, it is easy to see how manipulating matter at the atomic level could potentially lead to enormous developments.

While the commercialization of nanotechnology products has, so far, been relatively modest, recent and current research activities demonstrate extraordinary promise. For example, in the area of health we can envisage achievements such as diagnostic tools penetrating (and perhaps remaining inside of) cells, or therapeutic micro-tools directly treating ill cells from the inside.

The extremely small electronic components that can be produced using nanotechnology allow miniaturized and much more powerful electronic devices to be developed. Not only that, but new materials that are more robust, lighter and thinner than existing ones, could be created. Such developments may be of great interest in the fields of aircraft and space technology, of construction or even of clothing.

In terms of protecting the environment and safeguarding energy, micro-materials and elements may allow a much more efficient and powerful use of alternative energy sources, such as the development of new solar energy panels. While inventions in the field of nanotechnology would, as a general rule, appear to qualify for patent protection, subject to the fulfillment of the relevant conditions of patentability, there are a number of issues that may require further consideration, including for example the following:

  • One issue, which is, to a certain extent, shared with a number of other emerging technologies is that the granted claims are overly broad, due at least in part to a lack of available “prior art”, which could allow patent holders to lock up huge areas of technology. In this context, there is also a perceived risk of overlapping patents.
  • Concerning the general conditions of patentability, the question may arise as to whether the reproduction of a known product or structure at an atomic scale would meet the requirements of novelty or, more importantly, inventive step.
  • There is a question as to whether the rights of a patent holder, whose patent was granted for a product invention without specification of the size of the invention could either be considered infringed by the corresponding nanotechnology version of the invention or form the basis for requesting royalties from the inventor of the nanotechnology.

Related links