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Patents Businesses The Almighty Buck Science

Why Geim Never Patented Graphene 325

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 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:08PM (#33837042)

    You CANNOT patent basic elements: Graphene [] 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 oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:12PM (#33837098)

    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.

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

    You CANNOT patent basic elements: Graphene [] 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 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 John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @12:54PM (#33837698) Homepage

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

    There is no such requirement in the USA.

  • 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').

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by snowgirl ( 978879 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:20PM (#33838684) Journal

    While we're being pedants here, the UK isn't an island either.

    Or are you one of those people who doesn't understand the difference between the UK and Great Britain?

    Great Britain isn't 1 island either. :)

    Great Britain is one island. There are a number of islands in the British Isles, however. []

  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @02:50PM (#33839140)

    Geim lives in the UK. Libel is a pretty big deal by UK laws. If you don't have money and good lawyers, you don't want to be sued for libel

  • by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @03:11PM (#33839430) Homepage Journal

    They used to say that about copyrights.

  • by dougmc ( 70836 ) <> on Friday October 08, 2010 @03:34PM (#33839686) Homepage

    By default rm asks for confirmation before deleting a file. You have to override this behavior with the -f flag.

    You're wrong. rm only asks for confirmation if it's given the -i flag or if you're doing something unusual like removing a file you don't have write access to.

    Perhaps you have an alias set up that maps "rm" to "rm -i" -- it's a pretty common default alias, but it's a function of your *nix setup, not the rm command itself.

  • by Pentagram ( 40862 ) on Friday October 08, 2010 @03:53PM (#33839910) Homepage

    Yes, Wales *is* part of Great Britain. GP is incorrect.

    Great Britain = England + Wales + Scotland

"I'm not a god, I was misquoted." -- Lister, Red Dwarf