(PYS) Can a specific arrangement of molecules be considered as "original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression" and thus be protected under the current copyright law?

(DF) Nanotechnology raises many of the same economic issues as computer programs, since both result in high design costs and low reproduction costs. Ought designs to be protected by copyright? Patent? Some new form of IP?

(MS) Will IP laws have to change to accommodate new concepts of nano-authorship or nano-inventorship? Who owns the right to works created by nano-bots?

(PYS) The use of nanotechnolgy will lead to the development of new materials. When using common elements in a combination that until the development of nanotechnology was considered impossible develops a new stronger lighter material will its designer be given patent protection? Or will the machines and programs that run them be protected?

(PYS) For nanotech patents, what is "prior art"?  The design?  But don't designs and products frequently merge -- i.e., how many ways are there to "design," say, wheat?  So is wheat prior art, or is the design of wheat "novel" simply because someone will be the first to create a wheat nanofactory?  So will all everyday, common items be potentially "patentable" to the extent that they can be created by nanofactories?  Since nano-creation will be far cheaper (in marginal costs) than natural creation, what effectively will be the difference between owning a patent on a nano-product and owning the patent on a natural product, given that the former will be far preferable to the latter?

(PYS) In a world dominated by mature nanotechnology, what would the effect be on our society’s view of property rights and its belief that a particular configuration of matter is an important property interest? In a world in which nearly any object could be manufactured on-site from inexpensive materials, would the only really meaningful property right be in the underlying intellectual property? What ramifications would this trend have on our current intellectual property law regime and the duration of exclusive rights granted under these laws?

(PYS) Is taking an atom from an object conversion from the owner of that object? More generally, how do we define "de minimis" effects and intrusions in a world of nanotech?

(PYS) With the advent of nanoproducts that have the ability to re-engineer genes and cellular machinery, it would be conceivable for criminals to disguise their original fingerprints, retinal patterns, blood types, or even genetic material. What ramifications would such technology have on our criminal justice system and immigration laws?(DF) Once we have assemblers, most of the cost of a new nanotech device is design cost. If we try to regulate nanotech, should we do it at the design end or the production end?

(RM) Presuming international law will be applied, what international laws might we adopt? What international laws would various countries actually agree to? Who would enforce such laws?

(MS) Under the current FDA definitions, drugs work "chemically" and devices work "mechanically." How would these definitions need to change (if at all) to accommodate nanotechnology?

(MS) If carbon nanotubes of a certain size were found to cause ill health effects, similar to asbestos, for example, should designers and manufactures be held liable for damages?

(MS) As nanotech becomes more common in products or methods of production, should notification be required on packaging alerting consumers that, "this product may contain nanobots"?

(MS) Currently the federal government almost always has near-unlimited use to technology developed using federal funds. If federally-funded research begets the first generation of nanobots, and those nanobots build the next generation of nanobots, and the cycle continues down several iterations just how much will the government be entitled to? Everything that flows from the original nanobot technology?

(RM) What items, if any, should not be manufacturable by generally available nanofactories?
     a) Nanofactories with no built-in security features?
     b) Weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons (a consequence of cheap isotopic separation), various gray goos, nerve gases, chemical weapons, and other nasty things?    
    c) Items that are currently regulated, including various drugs, drug paraphernalia, assault rifles, pornography, sex toys, etc?

DF: David Friedman
MS: Matt Salcido
RM: Ralph Merkle
PYS: Previous Year's Student

Nanotech Research by Maura Fleming
Nanotech Research by Jason Alderon
Additional Research by Bryan Kohm
Research for this year by Linda Yu
Research for this year by Matt Salcido

Table of contents page

Course page

My Home Page