An article on the Small Times website ("U.S. patent examiners may not know enough about nanotech", by Doug Brown, 4 February 2002) describes some potential problems faced by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in evaluating what is expected to be a sharp increase in the number of nanotechnology-related patent applications. The article describes problems with both a lack of staff expertise in the relevant fields and the fact that there is no well-defined group or office within the USPTO that can develop the necessary deep expertise or consistency in examination policy. As the article notes, "With examiners ignorant of the scope of nanotechnology, companies would be faced with patents that are either rejected improperly because the examiner mistakenly concluded that the application is not new, or overly broad patents that would give a single company far too much control over a particular swath of a technological field. . . . Now, nanotechnology patents are scattered from technology center to technology center. As a result, patents live in isolation within different art units. The agency doesnít necessarily need to launch a nanotechnology center, . . . but it should put in place a system that funnels nanotechnology patents to specific people tutored in nanotechnology within the different technology centers. The nanotechnology specialists can communicate with one another, which would help ensure that only the right patents are granted for the right reason."
Note: Small Times has begun posting short notices on the latest micro- and nano-tech patents in a special section of their website.