Why This Year's Physics Nobel Winner Never Patented Graphene
from the keeping-the-legal-profession-employed dept
Slashdot points us to an interview with Andre Geim, who won this year's Nobel Prize for physics for his work on graphene. As part of the interview, they asked him about patenting graphene:
You haven't yet patented graphene. Why is that?It's certainly not an anti-patent statement (he sounds like he'd happily patent some uses of graphene), but it is illustrative of how companies view patents these days.
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.
I considered this arrogant comment, and I realized how useful it was. There was no point in patenting graphene at that stage. You need to be specific: you need to have a specific application and an industrial partner. Unfortunately, in many countries, including this one, people think that applying for a patent is an achievement. In my case it would have been a waste of taxpayers' money.