Nanotechnologies and the Law of Patents: A Collision
Imagine if some ﬁrm held a patent on the brick. The patent would be drawn so broadly as to cover any baked and/or glazed solid building element that would be used to construct lattice structures for human habitation. That ﬁrm would be able to charge royalties for most of the simple ediﬁces in the world. It could designate which buildings would go up ﬁrst and which would have to wait. There would probably be a rush to invent and patent a substitute for the patented brick that would be just diﬀerent enough to preclude a lawsuit, yet similar enough to work as easily and dependably as a brick. Some buildings would cost much more than they do now. Others might never get built at all. A tremendous amount of time and money would be spent trying to negotiate the brick-patent maze. Our world would certainly look diﬀerent. As it stands, we are fortunate that we live in a world in which bricks are in the public domain. Anyone may make them, sell them, and use them to build their houses. Building – especially essential, low-cost building – may continue without concern for technological licenses and penalties.