Current Nanoscience Patent Trends
The nanotechnology industry is growing and fast. This is not surprising; nanotechnologies have applications in just about every industry. Current nanoscience patent applications apply to anything measurable by nanometers or microns. Just about any industry can evolve through the use of nanotechnologies. From specialty materials, like epoxies and resins, to semiconductors, sensors, and other high-tech electronics, companies worldwide are spending significant R&D resources on nanotechnology inventions. For a good reason, too, according to Research and Markets,
“The global nanotechnology market is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 17% during the forecasted period of 2017-2024”.
Depending on the industry, growth for these technologies could be even greater.
Nanotechnologies in Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices
Of the many practical uses of nanotechnologies, the healthcare sector is steadily evolving bionanotechnology applications. Such applications are useful for drug delivery, surgical and medical devices, and more. In one recent case, researchers at MIT have found a method for nanoparticles to more effectively destroy cancerous tumors, making such tumors to be more susceptible to chemotherapy. Nano drug delivery could be the answer to the most effective use of drugs. As the University of Toronto reports,
“Nanoparticle drug delivery addresses one of the prevailing failures of the pharmaceutical industry: of the tens of thousands of drug candidates that the industry churns out each year, the vast majority fail. Many are too poorly soluble to enter the bloodstream, some flush straight through the kidneys, and others fall apart in the body before they can be of any benefit”.
Researchers are figuring out how to use nanoparticles to make drugs even more effective by studying how nanoparticles interact with cells, and what toxicity or concentration is most viable.
Healthcare R&D in this area is seeing increased spending on nanosized materials and devices. The National Nanotechnology Initiative, a government-funded R&D nano investment vehicle, budgeted $382 million dollars in investments to the National Institute of Health in 2016. This is up from $364 million in funding in 2015. Certain avenues may see big returns. The global nano drug delivery market alone is anticipated to hit $11.9 billion by 2023, up from $4.1 billion in 2014.
The following chart outlines patent activity within nanotechnology in biology and medicine sectors in the last 20 years. The chart is comprised of both patent applications and grants. You can see that applications for these technologies really gathered steam in the early and mid-2000s. Looking at this data, it is apparent that the number of nanotechnology patent applications greatly outweighs the number of patents granted.
Why is this?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) outlines an amalgam of issues challenging patent filing in nanotechnology. They note that emerging technologies in this space make overly broad claims. This is due in part at least to a lack of prior art to benchmark a new patent. WIPO also poses the question of whether the recreation of an existing product at a nanoscale would meet the requirements of “novelty” or “inventive step”.
Worldwide Application and Grant Patents for Past 20 Years
Bionanotechnology Patent Applications by Country
Outside of WIPO, the United States is leading the charge in bionanotechnology applications. This is in part due to nanotechnologies having received recognition and national funding in the early 2000s by the NNI. WIPO explains that US corporations are pushing many of these therapies forward:
“As of 2013, a few hundred nano-related medical therapies had been approved or had entered clinical trials in the United States”.
What’s also interesting here is that filing in Japan is more active than both South Korea and China:
Patent Filers of Japanese Patent Applications
A closer look at the data shows that most patent applications filed in Japan are filed from foreign entities. This could signal the importance of Japan as a strong market for growing and leveraging these technologies from abroad. ktMINE data shows that Japanese applicants are filing largely in the WIPO, US, and EU markets, with some minor activity in Canada and South Korea.
But where is China on this?
Out of over 49,000 patents and patent applications, Chinese entities own fewer than 1% of bionanotechnology applications and grants. It could be that China is focusing their current nanoscience efforts in the electronics and semiconductor space. But this data suggests China will face limitations to advance innovation in bionanotechnology applications.
Patent Applicants by Country of Origin
What’s next for bionanotechnology?
Judging by the applicant countries of emerging nanotechnologies, we can continue to expect aggressive innovation from the above countries. However, whether or not China is planning to enter the fray has yet to be seen. They are certainly far behind in bionanotechnologies. In an area with a death of granted patents, it is crucial for large patenting venues to compare and determine the patentability of nanotechnologies moving forward. Patent attorneys, analysts, and other future applicants should keep tabs on any newly granted patents from WIPO, the United States, and other large patenting venues. Bionanotechnology inventions will not only involve emerging methods of drug delivery, medical products, pharmaceuticals, but also the tools with which scientists study and even manufacture items at a nanoscale. It is not a question of if, but when, will bionanotechnologies disrupt a long-established industry with billions of dollars on the line.