IP may be overvalued as nanotech success indicator

From Lawrence Gasman over at NanoMarkets, a thought piece on nanotech intellectual property. An excerpt: “Contrary to the beliefs of many, the pure IP model may ultimately prove hard to defend in the nanotechnology business. Nanotechnology provides a very wide range of materials and manufacturing platforms. This in turn, suggests that performance goals for nanoproducts can be achieved by very different routes. For example, in the search for high-capacity, non-volatile computer memory, a wide variety of completely different nanotechnologies are being considered – for example, thin-film magnetics for MRAM, organic electronics for polymer memory and carbon nanotubes for carbon nanotube memory. But the end goal is quite similar. Even if a firm could achieve a great leap forward in commercial memory technology using one approach and could file a fool-proof patent for its technology, there is nothing that patent could do to stop it being bested in the marketplace by another memory approach. Nanotechnology makes such an event a lot more likely to occur than in the past, since it provides many new materials from which to construct memories and hence a whole new way of getting round patents.

“If my assessment of the real future role of intellectual property in the future of nanotech turns out to be correct, then the tendency to regard protected IP as a key factor in the valuation of start-ups may be exaggerated.” Heresy! —Christine

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