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Why Geim Never Patented Graphene 325

Posted by Soulskill
from the makes-perfect-sense dept.
gbrumfiel writes "As we discussed on Tuesday, Andre Geim won this year's Nobel prize in physics for graphene, but he never patented it. In an interview with Nature News, he explains why: 'We considered patenting; we prepared a patent and it was nearly filed. Then I had an interaction with a big, multinational electronics company. I approached a guy at a conference and said, "We've got this patent coming up, would you be interested in sponsoring it over the years?" It's quite expensive to keep a patent alive for 20 years. The guy told me, "We are looking at graphene, and it might have a future in the long term. If after ten years we find it's really as good as it promises, we will put a hundred patent lawyers on it to write a hundred patents a day, and you will spend the rest of your life, and the gross domestic product of your little island, suing us." That's a direct quote.'"
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Why Geim Never Patented Graphene

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  • by Narcocide (102829) on Friday October 08, 2010 @11:46AM (#33836662) Homepage

    Can't they just patent it anyway, and sue him instead?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @11:51AM (#33836748)

      If a Nobel prize doesn't count as prior art, the system is even more broken that it seems

      • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:04PM (#33836976) Homepage

        Well, they don't have to patent graphene itself -- they can just patent every possible application of it that they can think of.

        That's really the way things seem to work -- if you patent something really awesome, somebody with a lot more lawyers will surround your invention with patents so it can't be used, even by you, without infringing on one of their patents. In general, these patents tend to be "obvious to the layperson" and therefore should be thrown out, but that requires lots of money, and it's easier to just pay their extortion money.

        The system is screwed up. It would be even more screwed up if you needed a Nobel prize to protect yourself against it, but at least in this case it's not needed -- and doesn't even help.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          They'll also patent every way of making it. Then they'll patent every change/improvement
          to the process for the next 50 years.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:09PM (#33837050)

          That's how patents work in biotech. First you find a gene, then you immediately patent it - don't worry about figureing out what it does, because if you delay to do that a competitor might file first. Then you figure out what it does, and then you patent every possible application just to be safe. Commercial biotech research is basically driven by patents, but it can get extremally aggressive.

        • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:20PM (#33837252)

          Never understood the 'not obvious to the layperson' requirement, seems to me like it should be 'not obvious to someone in the given field'. In other words, if you presented 5 engineers with a problem and they all came up with the same or similar solutions, that solution should not be patentable, there is no leap that is worth rewarding with a monopoly. But I guess just getting the layperson requirement to actually be honored would be a good step in the right direction.

          • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:30PM (#33837410)

            In the US, the standard is "not obvious to one having ordinary skill in the art". In other words, someone with more skill than Joe Sixpack, but less skill than an expert in the field.

            • by Grond (15515) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:55PM (#33837718) Homepage

              In the US, the standard is "not obvious to one having ordinary skill in the art". In other words, someone with more skill than Joe Sixpack, but less skill than an expert in the field.

              It's a little more complicated than that. The level of skill involved depends on the subject matter. If the patent is about a simple mechanical device, then the level of skill will be relatively low. Perhaps a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, if that. If the patent is about a complex genetically modified organism, then the person having ordinary skill in the art would have a high level of skill, probably a Ph.D in biology with some additional years of experience.

              You tend to have alleged infringers arguing that the level of skill in a given case is very high and therefore the super-genius involved would easily have found the invention obvious. The patentee tends to argue that the level of skill is very low and that the Joe Sixpack involved would find the invention astonishingly unobvious.

              The European Patent Convention--and thus the patent law of EU countries--follows a similar standard as the US ('a person skilled in the art').

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Dachannien (617929)

                It's a little more complicated than that.

                True, but it's nigh impossible to convince /.ers to read the claims of a patent, so I figured I'd give the Cliff Notes version.

              • by dgatwood (11270) on Friday October 08, 2010 @04:10PM (#33840124) Journal

                And, of course, the way it should work is this:

                • Gather a panel of people with a typical level of knowledge in the field.
                • Ensure that none of them are aware of the invention.
                • Tell them the problem the invention is trying to solve.
                • Give them any building blocks used.
                • See if they can replicate the invention or a close approximation thereof.
                • If so, reject the patent.

                The problem is that 99% of "inventions" are nothing of the sort. They're little more than ideas that are obvious as soon as you are told the problem that you're trying to solve, and the only reason they weren't invented decades earlier is that nobody was trying to solve that problem yet because the problem space itself did not exist.

                For example, a patent on how to take bids via the Internet could not reasonably be invented prior to the Internet. But ask ten people how they would set up an auction site on the Internet, and even if they've never used eBay or heard people describe how it works, they'll still describe most of it pretty accurately. As such, it's obvious to even a nimrod who knows how the Internet works and wants to conduct auctions online. Since the core purpose of patents is to protect an inventor's exclusivity temporarily in exchange for publishing how something works instead of keeping it a trade secret, and since a patent on that concept would contribute nothing of consequence to the general understanding of technology, such a patent should be soundly rejected.

                Further, any patent on any software technology that does not include the corresponding source code to demonstrate how something is done should be rejected. And again, if the source code is obvious once you've been told its inputs and expected outputs, the patent should similarly be rejected.

                It should not be enough to be the first to think of doing something. The patent should at a minimum provide some significant insight that would not be obvious to a typical person who has been exposed to the problem. Most patents do not, and as such, most patents are junk.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by srussia (884021)

              In the US, the standard is "not obvious to one having ordinary skill in the art". In other words, someone with more skill than Joe Sixpack, but less skill than an expert in the field.

              Sounds like they should just include an "Ask Slashdot" step in the patent process. In fact, I think I'll patent a "method for determining 'obviousness to a person skilled in the art' for patent puproses".

          • by danpat (119101) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:46PM (#33837608) Homepage

            The problem is that it takes less than those 5 engineers to get a crap patent into the system in the first place. When the cost of entry is lower than the cost of removal, the system is going to tend to fill up with crap.

            Now, if there was a fine levied against those that had their patents invalidated......

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by John Hasler (414242)

            > Never understood the 'not obvious to the layperson' requirement...

            There is no such requirement in the USA.

          • by Spatial (1235392) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:58PM (#33837752)

            We've arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science and technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces. I mean, who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don't know anything about it?

            Carl Sagan

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Never understood the 'not obvious to the layperson' requirement, seems to me like it should be 'not obvious to someone in the given field'. In other words, if you presented 5 engineers with a problem and they all came up with the same or similar solutions, that solution should not be patentable, there is no leap that is worth rewarding with a monopoly. But I guess just getting the layperson requirement to actually be honored would be a good step in the right direction.

            This is exactly why the poster child fo

            • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday October 08, 2010 @01:58PM (#33838462)

              Something obvious you simply avoid doing for (probably)good reason is still obvious.
              How many of those same programmers who I assume were at least moderately skilled in the art would have had the slightest problem creating code to let a book get bought and shipped by one click?
              Where is the invention?
              Where is the non-obvious bit?

              If every gun manufacturer included a safety but is quite capable of building one without but don't that doesn't make it an "invention" when one of them does even if it turns out that people like guns with no safetys.

              It's an ideal poster child for bad patents.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by shaitand (626655)

            Small correction if you presented 5 engineers with a problem and ANY of them came up with the same or similar solutions, that solution shouldn't be patentable.

            Patents are given out way too easily. I used to think patents should be eliminated altogether but I've finally settled on the belief that we simply give out too many and for too little.

            Progressive inventions will be made without patents. Patents should be reserved for solutions that aren't reached by 1 in a thousand peers let alone five out of five ra

        • by TheDarkMaster (1292526) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:50PM (#33837660)
          Simply ignore the patents ... And if any laywer appeared at the door of your company trying to extort you because of such patents, return then to his employer by mail. Just the head.
        • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:56PM (#33837732)

          if you patent something really awesome, somebody with a lot more lawyers will surround your invention with patents so it can't be used, even by you, without infringing on one of their patents.

          If you hold the patent for Illudium Pu-36, for instance, then even if someone else patents the Illudium Pu-36 explosive space modulator, they will be on the hook if they try to make their invention without getting a license from you. So even if everyone else comes out of the woodwork getting patents that hedge out all the possible applications of your invention, you're still better off with the patent, since they can't make their own patented inventions without using your patented invention.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AhabTheArab (798575)
            But then you can't use your Illudium Pu-36 for any practical applications. Your patent is as useless as theirs at that point.
            • Yup, indeed. Patents are the modern and scientific equivalent of the "Mutual Assured Destruction" doctrine and its nuclear madness.

              only much worse because during the cold war, the nuke-equipped countries kept showing off to each other only through weapon tests, nobody nuked small nuke-less countries on a regular basis just just to kill off competition.

          • by brainboyz (114458) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:40PM (#33838982) Homepage

            But if they're big enough compared to you, they'll make their space modulator anyway and drag things out in court when you sue. Better have the money to have lawyers dedicated to the case for 8 years. If you run out of money, they win. If your lawyers miss an objection or technicality, they win. If you win, you'll eventually get money and damages.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Jonah Hex (651948)

            Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jafafa Hots (580169)

            So, you invented Illudium Pu-36 and get a 20 year patent.
            You spend ten years defending that patent, and get very little out of it because you're too small to get good licensing deals, too small to effectively fight off infringers, etc.

            Meanwhile, they after a few years patent every concievable use of it. You're boxed in now. You can spend all your time fighting them. Some of their patents are very obvious, others have prior art, but you have to prove that in court and you can't afford to.

            Your patent expires.

      • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:06PM (#33837004)

        Oh yes, a very simple method to make graphene is covered by the prior art. But what if they come up with some tiny improvement to the process (or more likely a massive improvement if they're going to commercialize it I don't think using scotch tape and pencil lead is going to cut it). And then you can file a patent for each possible use that you can come up with, and another for every tiny incremental improvement you make to those uses, and even uses that you come up with that you know won't work but might end up being close enough to something that does work that you can sue someone later. Broken... broken... broken, I just can't express how broken the patent system is.

        • Making an improvement gives you the right to the improvement only. The rest of the process is still covered by the original patent.

          So you might file a whole raft of improvements but it won't get you any economic benefit.

          • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:38PM (#33837490)

            I'm just saying that an army of patent lawyers will box in any important invention so much that any layman's patent is going to be 100% worthless because they won't be able to do anything with it without stepping all over a dozen other patents. Lets say that you're one of the inventors and want to start a business to actually sell a product that uses graphene. Oh, you want to mass produce graphene now? Well, there's 13 patents on ways to mass produce it so you'll need to license one of them even though it is really just an automation of the process that one you a Nobel prize. You want to use graphene in a touchscreen display? Sorry, that violate the patent on "monolayer semiconductor based resistive devices". etc, etc, etc.

      • by hey! (33014) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:23PM (#33837286) Homepage Journal

        You don't understand how this works. You write patents like "Use of graphene as a conducting element in an electronic device," or "Method of fabricating graphene on silicon substrates employing one of several obvious design choices that nonetheless sound like witchcraft to anyone without a PhD in Materials Science."

        It doesn't matter if the patents won't stand up. If there's enough of them, it won't be worth the cost for any private party to knock them all down. The only way to stop this is to get tough on fraudulent claims. If an "inventor" shows a pattern of putting his name on patent applications that a professional working in the field would consider trivial, then he should go to prison for perjury.

        The problem with the current system for policing fraud is that it relies on competitors. But the whole strategy is to pile the BS so deep it's not worth the competitors' bother. Furthermore, the competitors aren't going to rock the boat because they're doing the same damned thing.

        Patent abuse is a win-some, lose-some proposition for the corporations engaged in it. It's the public and the real inventors who consistently lose.

      • by TheDarkMaster (1292526) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:46PM (#33837622)
        Kill the "big company", with bullets, literally. There is no dialogue with the kind of company that says such things. You do not tell to the bad guy "please, do not shoot me!", you shoot him. Twice.
    • by KarmaMB84 (743001)
      Pretty sure nobody could get away with patenting something someone already published and won the Nobel Prize for.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "Method of making something similar to Graphene but isn't"
        "Method of using a Graphine-like material to wipe your ass"
        add "on a smartphone", "on the internet" etc. to each of them.

        They can generate a mountain of patent applications and a good chunk would be granted. They'd never stand up in court, but they don't care. Like the guy said, they'd kill the competition with legal fees.

        Yes, it's an abuse of the legal system. Good luck getting THAT to stick.

      • by canajin56 (660655) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:05PM (#33836984)
        They seemed to think they would ruin him if he had a publication and a patent. Why would a Nobel Prize be a good example of prior art, but an actual patent would be a joke? Even with a patent and a Nobel prize and a dozen publications, there is nothing you can due when sued for violating 1,000 different patents and faced with a team of 200 lawyers filing a dozen lawsuits every day until you fold. That's the point. They don't care if they lose a lot in court. The point was they will never license his discovery, they will take and if he tries to fight, they will dedicate their entire existence to ruining his life. AKA they will act like any corporation ever. Steal and then sue your victim for 10 trillion dollars.
      • by DJ Jones (997846) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:06PM (#33837002) Homepage
        RTFA. In the next paragraph Geim talks about what the guy from the electronics company meant. Patents only work if they are for specific devices or processes. Since graphene hasn't been use in any practical real-world solutions yet, there's really nothing to patent at this stage. The company that develop devices and uses for Graphene will end up filing more specific and enforceable patents.

        He wasn't necessarily knocking the system.
  • Name and Shame. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday October 08, 2010 @11:53AM (#33836772) Journal

    He could at least have mentioned which "big, multinational electronics company" he spoke with.

    • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Friday October 08, 2010 @11:55AM (#33836814)

      Do that, and he'll spend the rest of his life and gross income fighting interminable libel suits.

      • by meerling (1487879)
        yeah, I've heard that in the UK the truth is less important than the appearance in libel suits, so even if you had a video recording of the CEO saying something like that, they could still sue and win if you published that statement. Don't know how true that is, but the UK laws have some really stupid stuff in them. (All countries laws have some stupid stuff, but the longer the country has been around, the more moronic stuff is there.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      That wouldn't be smart. If he did that, he'd probably get taken to court for slander, and if he didn't have evidence that the individual said that, he could very easily lose. Given the content of the quote, I rather suspect that the individual wouldn't have the scruples to look the other way if it is an accurate quote.
    • by arivanov (12034)

      You cannot guess which one? It is fairly easy to guess. There are about two of them which fit the bill and I am pretty sure which one was he talking to. It is not the one which once upon a time did a blue roses advert. That one would have given a considerably more subtle answer.

    • "big, multinational electronics company"

      It doesn't take a genius to know the answer is IBM

    • Just out of spite go to the corp's direct competitor(s), and let them know exactly who said what. Then offer to help said competitor(s) get a jump on things.

      Hell - I'd do it just out of spite; the original corp gets bitch-slapped, competitor(s) get a Nobel Prize-winning scientist's name in their press releases, and while you still have to stupid patent issues, at least the evil is more diffuse (among competitors), and therefore less of a threat at large.

    • My first guess was actually Intel. The "little island" comment lead me to think that the executive had mixed up the UK and Ireland (Intel have a big plant in Ireland). Then again, I wouldn't put it past the executive of any major US company to use the a pejorative like "little island" when referring to the UK. UK-ians need to learn to stop speaking American.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Friday October 08, 2010 @11:53AM (#33836776)
    That's a threat to abuse the legal system.
  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday October 08, 2010 @11:56AM (#33836832) Homepage Journal

    I don't get it, he is Russian born and works in Manchester, England. Are they saying $2.2 trillion (nominal GDP of England in 2006) isn't enough to win a patent war? My god, if that's the case, then what is?

    • Trick question. It's impossible to win a patent war... unless you're a patent lawyer, of course, in which case you always win.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:07PM (#33838546) Homepage

        you can for sure win a patent war.

        You just use weapons the other size will not expect.

        If the entire other side ended up in a horrible accident, you suddenly win.

        Just saying.... I have a hundred "associates" just sitting around waiting to do something.... Am I making my self clear? capisce?

        I would hate for an unfortunate circumstance to happen, causing something to happen... Right Vito?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

      It's really simple, and Geim seems to have totally misunderstood the guy's comment.

      By patenting it, and the company creating patents surrounding it, Geim stands to gain in licensing incredible amounts of profit. He would be able to "buy his own island".

      Geim calls this comment arrogant, but by not patenting it he has simply made it possible for the multinational electronics company to use his invention at no cost. They reap all the benefit while his work to discover/invent goes unrewarded - even the Nobel pr

  • by Stiletto (12066) on Friday October 08, 2010 @11:59AM (#33836868)

    This is as fine example as any about how patents help the small business and/or lone inventor.

    • by thijsh (910751)
      Clearly this is an example where patents helped him develop a revolutionary new substance worthy of a Nobel prize. Patents are 'absolutely necessary' for innovation after all, and this is some greyt innovation so patents *must* have helped.
    • by darjen (879890)

      No, it's exactly the opposite. How on earth will this guy will benefit from large companies writing a hundred patents surrounding his discovery? Patents will always be detrimental to the little guy, and innovation in general. You can't improve anything that's patented, even if your application is 100% better.

    • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:29PM (#33837382) Homepage

      They do help a little. I have a number of friends involved in startups and the patents they own are valuable, but they are not everything. As with all things in life if the big guy wants something they'll find a way to get it.

      IME if you have done a startup (e.g. electronics company) then you have three things of value:
      1) Your customer: lets say you have interest (but not sales) from a large company A and another large company B wants to sell to A. By buying you if they can get a foot in the door to company A that would be worthwhile.
      2) Your employees: startups tend to attract the bright go-getters - often useful to infuse a big old company
      3) Your IP, the code and the patents, although given the fact that the big company can out compete you in terms of bruteforce coding then once they know what you are up to, which if you have come onto their radar they will do; then once you have proved your technology then you have a very short window in which to get bought before this last item becomes worthless because they can set 100 monkeys onto the job.

      I've seen on a number of occasions the patents protect the small startup, but only as far as the demonstration of the specific technology they have developed.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:01PM (#33836902) Homepage Journal

    Y'know, just asking. If this isn't a demand with menaces, it sure the hell ain't kippers.

    The interesting part of this is the use of the patent system to prevent an inventor patenting their invention. (You know damn well that the company WILL file patents in ten years anyway and will make gob-loads of money, prior-art not withstanding.) The sole value of a patent system is to ALLOW the inventor to patent their invention. It serves no other function. (The other theoretical value of properly documenting an invention has long-since given up the ghost.) That we now have a verifiable, demonstrable example of patent inversion shows that the system as it stands must be replaced.

  • by wazoox (1129681) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:01PM (#33836904) Homepage
    As said in the freely available e-book "against intellectual monopoly". I didn't write it, but it's well worth a read.
  • It would be hundreds of patents of specific use of Graphene, not of Graphene itself.

    What Geim needs to do is open a small production facility, produce this Graphene and sell it to different companies / research institutes, see what they can come up with.

    --
    Oh, as to patents, all patents should be abolished.

    • Right, and the patents on the basic uses of graphene will be useless because without the patent on graphene itself these companies won't be able to manufacture the stuff.

      It's patents 101. Getting a patent on something gives you the right to prevent others from using the claimed matter in the patent. It doesn't give you the right to practice what you have patented because your invention might depend on a technology that someone else has a patent on.

      If somebody had given me that line quoted in the story I wou

      • Right, and the patents on the basic uses of graphene will be useless because without the patent on graphene itself these companies won't be able to manufacture the stuff.

        Which is completely wrong. If that were true, no one else would have been able to produce rubber after Charles Goodyear patented vulcanization. But this wasn't the case as other people just came up with their own way to manufacture it. Geim cannot just get a blanket patent on "graphene" but only on a specific manufacturing process or usage of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Corporations, and their masters have become absolutely powerful and absolutely evil. The only thing more absolute is people's denial and greed.

    How many people have sold themselves out into corporate slavery?

    Now, go as your told, boy.

  • by masterwit (1800118) * on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:02PM (#33836942) Journal

    It also has the largest surface-to-weight ratio: with one gram of graphene you can cover several football pitches (in Manchester, you know, we measure surface area in football pitches).

    Can someone put this in terms of American Football fields please? Or perhaps school buses will work...thanks.

    • by slim (1652)

      Tricky, since an Association Football pitch, for non-international matches could be as small as 45m * 91m = 4,095m^2 or as large as 91m * 120m = 10,920m^2

      But then I suppose "several" is sufficiently vague to compensate for the variation.

    • A soccer field (BrE: football pitch) is 105 by 68 meters, or exactly 0.714 hectare. It's about one and a third U.S. football fields, which are 360 by 160 feet, or 0.5351 ha. So yes, 1 gram of graphene would still cover several football fields (in Indianapolis, you know, we measure surface area in football fields).
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      Long or short?

    • Taking a stab at it ... imagine an NFL football field, plus the stands, PLUS the parking lot.
    • by meerling (1487879)
      What most of the world calls football, the US calls soccer. And by pitches, they don't mean throws, they mean the same as fields.
      As to stones, the British girlfriend I had didn't even know exactly what the hell that was, just that it was a lot larger than a couple pounds weight.

      I know this doesn't answer your question, but I'm simply highlighting the apparent British tendency to use esoteric measurements that just confuse most people for no other apparent reason that it just seems British. (You really don'
    • by Kepesk (1093871)
      How about the size of Wales? I need to know this in area-of-Wales units. Or alternatively, Rhode ISland.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:08PM (#33837042)

    You CANNOT patent basic elements: Graphene [wikipedia.org] is a form of carbon.

    However, you CAN patent a process for using graphene.

    Go ahead and mod this post DOWN !

    Yours In Akademgorodok,
    Kilgore Trout

    • by Grond (15515) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:23PM (#33837298) Homepage

      You CANNOT patent basic elements: Graphene [wikipedia.org] is a form of carbon.

      It wouldn't be a patent on carbon itself as graphene can be considered an indefinitely large molecule. In the US it would be a patent on a 'composition of matter,' which is one of the basic classes of statutory subject matter. Although graphene does occur naturally in graphite and elsewhere, it does not occur in an isolated, purified form. The patent claims would be to isolated, purified graphene, probably having certain other characteristics (e.g., an average sheet size of at least X mm or whatever). All of this would be backed up with a description of (and probably claims for) a method of making graphene with those characteristics.

    • by arivanov (12034)

      You can patent a method for producing graphene, not just for using it.

      Example - the Aluminium purification process presently in use across the industry was patented once upon a time. The zone recrystallisation used to purify Si and other semiconductor materials was also patented. Both patents have expired now, but they were perfectly valid patents on how to produce what you call a "basic element".

  • by oldhack (1037484)

    Finally, are you one of those Nobel prizewinners who is going to go crazy now that you've won?

    ...I'll try to keep my sanity as long as possible.

    The dude seems to know where his towel is.

  • by z-j-y (1056250) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:14PM (#33837148)

    isn't his research funded by public money?

  • Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cjcela (1539859) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:14PM (#33837152)
    Maybe patents use to work 50 years ago. Now it is always the case that the company with deeper pockets always gets its way one way or the other. What really gets to me is the hypocrisy of people saying 'patents protect innovators'. They do not. Patents do anything but protecting innovation.
    • by wizkid (13692)

      Patent's Used to protect innovators. Unfortunately, the lawyers got involved. The patent system now needs a re-write to get back to it's original intention. But with the fox in the hen-house, (Corrupt lobbyists controlling congress) we're not going to see this until we change congress. See change-congress.org for details.

      Hmmm,
      I double-checked my link, and if you type changecongress instead of change-congress, you go to the democrat website. Democrats are half the problem with congress. Of course the

  • by walmass (67905) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:22PM (#33837274)
    TFA asks: "Finally, are you one of those Nobel prizewinners who is going to go crazy now that you've won? "

    The interviewer probably didn't know that Dr. Geim won the Ig Nobel [improbable.com] for levitating a frog.

    Between that and the fact that he cited saving taxpayer's money as a reason behind not filing a patent and his Friday experiments (which led to the scotch-tape on graphite) discovery, I think I have a new hero.
  • It's also bullshit. Yes, they might be able to tie him up in court, but it would cost them more than it would cost him. That's why companies often pay up rather than fight patents that are weaker than his might have been. Cheaper to license or purchase the patent, unless the owner is insanely greedy.

  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:31PM (#33837418)

    Patent System: A system put in place to be manipulated to protect corporate IP while stifling competitive innovation.

    Legal System: A corporate asset which is manipulated to keep innovative products from being competitive.

  • by Grond (15515) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:43PM (#33837576) Homepage

    Counter-intuitively, this actually presents a case for stronger patents. A strong, easily enforced patent would allow Geim to secure licenses from companies using graphene without a long or expensive legal battle. Strong patents give individual inventors and startups the leverage they need to compete against established players.

    Weak patents favor large, established companies. A single weak patent isn't very useful, but a thousand weak patents can destroy a startup competitor or force a settlement with a large one. The result is that large, established companies will tend to accumulate huge portfolios while preventing startups from flourishing. Startups will tend to hope to be bought up by established companies rather than try to compete on their own. And that's exactly what we see today: comparatively few new, large companies and a lot of established players with large patent portfolios that buy up new competitors and engage in low stakes patent litigation with each other that routinely ends in status quo-preserving settlements and cross-licensing agreements.

    Note that strong patents are not mutually exclusive with tougher examination and stricter patentability standards. We can do things like reform the written description and enablement requirements so that patentees are forced to write narrower claims that only cover what they actually invented and not just whatever they could brainstorm or dream up without actually nailing down the particulars. Such reforms are not incompatible with making patents stronger and more easily enforced.

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Friday October 08, 2010 @01:00PM (#33837774)
    Rather than look at this as a story about a big electronics company pushing around the little guy, I look at is as the right result reached, no matter by what means. I'm sick of seeing all of the patents that have been issued for things that were not really invented, just found to always exist and be useful. Perhaps they should be entitled to a patent on a fabrication method, on on a particular application (although that second one seems dubious), but not a patent on Graphene itself. That would be like suggesting basic elements could have been patented. Graphene is just a very common form of carbon that has long existed.

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