In Budapest today, a conference is being held under the theme of "What is keeping nanotech innovation policymakers awake at night?" (ObservatoryNANO workshop). Good question. The Budapest discussion themes include "measurable indicators." Patents, of course, are one critical measurable indicator, and the U.S. innovation policy makers should be watching patents carefully.

Later this year, the USPTO is expected to grant its 7,000th class 977 nanotechnology patent. The 977 patent count as of Tuesday May 31, 2011 stood at 6,937. The USPTO granted twelve more nanotech 977 patents yesterday.

The twelve patents granted yesterday reflect the diversity of the nanotech innovation ecosystem.

For example, nanotech is influencing cleantech as seen in USP 7,952,105 for efficient LED lighting. This patent is apparently owned by Global OLED Technology LLC and relates to quantum dot technology. The patent was originally with Eastman Kodak but sold to LG Electronics and owned now by Global OLED. Reportedly, Idemitsu Kosan owns a significant stake in Global OLED. The IP flow from Kodak to LG Idemitsu has important long-term policy implications for manufacturing which should be monitored.

Nanotech also is important for nanobio. DuPont has another patent: USP 7,304,128 for its technology on how certain peptide sequences can selectively bind to carbon nanotubes. This technology is apparently being offered for license based on brief review of DuPont's Technology Bank(TM).

Several patents related to microelectronics and memory (e.g., Samsung Electronics, Micron Technology). University patenting includes University of Central Florida (CNT composites) and Kanazawa University (SPM technology).

Nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes are a central theme (e.g., Hyperion patent).

Finally, Applied Nanotech Holdings, which according to its Web site has a strong IP business plan, has a new 977 patent on sensor technology (e.g., CO detection).

So, are the policy makers monitoring these patents and the IP flow? Whether or not people are staying awake at night, people should be carefully monitoring patents as patents are an important element of international trade and domestic job creation (or lack thereof).