Patents are much in the press these days with respect to patent reform legislation, recently passed by the House and Senate. More quietly on the patent front, however, the US PTO today granted its 7,000th class 977 nanotechnology patent (patents grant each Tuesday, and the total count for 977 patents now stands at 7,001). The grant is part of the larger drive where soon the PTO will grant its 8,000,000th patent!
The 7,000th nanotech patent is US Patent No. 7,968,609 assigned to Prototech AS, a Norwegian company. The patent relates to sol-gel processing to make mixed gels and nanoparticles (sol-gel is a critical aspect of nanotechnology). Application in the '609 patent focuses on the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Hence, it is a cleantech patent. The patent is also assigned the subclass 773 which is for nanoparticle patents.
The US PTO now grants many more 977 patents than they have in the past (roughly double the number). This year (prorated), the PTO is granting at a rate of 770 per year. Last year saw 780 patents grant. In contrast, the numbers is past years were far less (2009: only 530; 2008: only 431; 2007:only 344; 2006: only 276).
In the past, many commentators have discussed the potential for a nanotechnology patent thicket. This useful PTO program for classifying 977 nanotechnology patents can help interested parties efficiently sort through the patent literature and avoid that thicket.