Sunday, October 08, 2006

US Patent 7116546 - Nanofiber Electrode

Every now and then I see a patent issue with claims that are so improper that I think everyone involved in the patent's issuance should be eliminated from the patent system altogether. I really think that there is a serious failure in accountability for both patent attorneys and patent examiners and while I usually wouldn't mention any names, the claims of this patent have reached a new low. So listed below are the two individuals responsible for the quality of this so-called "patent" and the first claim of the patent.

Andrew L. Filler (Reg. No. 44,107)

Nguyen T. Ha

1. An electrode comprising a first surface including a plurality of nanofibers, wherein a density of the plurality of nanofibers ranges from about 0.11 nanofiber per square micron or less to at least about 1000 nanofibers per square micron, from about 1 nanofiber per square micron or less to at least about 500 nanofibers per square micron, from about 10 nanofibers per square micron or less to at least about 250 nanofibers per square micron, or from about 50 nanofibers per square micron or less to at least about 100 nanofibers per square micron.

Noted problems with the above claim -

1) 35 USC 112 2nd para. - Narrow and broader ranges in the same claim. See MPEP 2173.05(c)

2) 35 USC 102(b) - the claim cites numerous different ranges in the alternative, each of which cites "or less" in referring to the density of nanofibers, which can broadly be read as none. But even ignoring this flaw the specification teaches that carbon nanotubes are a candidate for the claimed nanofibers and arrays of nanotubes have been known far earlier than the earliest priority date (March 18, 2004) of this patent. For example, Agere Systems has US 6,283,812 (see column 12, lines 15-32) and there are numerous other prior art examples in the scientific and patent literature of nanofiber arrays on electrodes.

While I do think that the Examiner responsible for issuance of this patent should be fired (or at least severely reprimanded and have his signatory authority revoked) I also think that Nantero (the company that owns this patent) should really consider new attorneys. This is not the first time I have seen obviously bad patent claims issue from them and it is quite possible that improper practice by their patent attorneys may screw up a company which otherwise seems to be producing interesting ideas in nanoelectronics.