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Carbon Nanotubes: Identifying and Confronting the Blocking Patents
Volume 7, Issue 4

M. Henry Heines

Patents in almost any field of technology will be more and more basic (and therefore broad) as one reaches back in time. But when the development curve is steep, as it is in carbon nanotubes, many of those early patents will still be in force. Which of the early carbon nanotube patents are blocking patents, who owns them, how long are they in effect, and what is their sweep in a field that encompasses such a diverse array of materials, devices, and utility? The patents explored herein are divided into generations that are defined by the scopes of their claims. The first generation contains the patents that are broadest and thereby have the greatest potential blocking effect, since they claim the carbon nanotubes themselves as compositions of matter. The second generation is defined as consisting of patents claiming compositions or components that expressly reflect particular nanotube properties. The third generation includes patents in which the properties reflected in the second generation are claimed in advanced contexts. The blocking effect of the first and second generations is thus illustrated in the third.

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