There is a substance that is about to change our lives: in some ways perceptibly, and in others hidden from view, but nonetheless profound in application and implication for future technology based products.
The substance is Graphene. A single layer of carbon atoms, laid out in a honeycomb structure that is the thinnest, and yet one of the strongest, substance in use at the nanotechnology level.
Its properties include incredible density, transparency, efficient heat and electrical conduction, and high flexibility. Its applications include electrodynamics, physical and organic chemistry, thermodynamics, semiconductor design, and flat screen technologies.
With a huge array of potential applications, it is no wonder that firms, state enterprises and research institutes are clamoring to take out patents to begin the “walling off process” of potential product and market spaces – thereby creating barriers to entry, behind which future revenue streams will accrue.
This is a crucial point for all governments, but especially UK PLC. Firms in China, the US and South Korea lead the way in the number of patents filed over the past five years in potential applications of Graphene. According to Cambridge IP, the world’s top ten Graphene patent owners are (listed alphabetically):
- · International Business Machines (IBM)
- · Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
- · Rice University (William Marsh)
- · Samsung (South Korea)
- · Sandisk 3D LLC
- · Sungyunkwan University
- · Tsinghua University
- · Xerox Corp
- · Zhejiang University
When we list the patents filed by Research Institute, the table, in terms of percentage shares of the approximately 7,500 patents filed to date, looks as follows:
Chinese firms and Institutes lead the way with 2,204 patent publications, or 30 percent of the filed patents, followed by U.S. entities with 1,754, or 23 percent of filed patents, then South Korea with 1,160, or 15 percent of filed patents, and finally the UK owning 54 filed patents, which is less than one percent.
This means that 68 percent of all patents filed on Graphene derivatives and uses have been taken out by firms and institutes in just three countries, China, the U.S., and South Korea.
The scatter gun approach, especially taken by the Chinese, is similar in result, if not process, of Japanese firms acquiring Cambridge-based Silicon Fen startup companies, in high technology industries, to get access to their portfolios of patents and future products and markets.
This will give Chinese, U.S., and South Korean firms first mover advantages as product/market spaces open, to fully exploit those opportunities under the protective cloak of the patent system. But it will also allow them to legally defend those products and markets, foreclosing options for competitors, and have a higher degree of early life cycle monopolization over value chains of products and services created in the nascent Graphene ecosystems. And when those nascent ecosystems begin to bring new products to markets, those in at this stage will potentially benefit the most by setting the industry standards, and becoming keystone firms for future roadmaps.
At the firm level, the South Korean giant Samsung looks like it may benefit most from its patenting of Graphene applications as derivatives. It is a diversified conglomerate (Chaebol in Korean), with a portfolio of products that include flat-screen TVs, semiconductor fabrication and mobile devices – laptops, phones and tablets – all of which have product and market applications for Graphene-based nano technologies.
Samsung has filed 407 patents to date, some eight times the number filed by UK PLC in its entirety. The screen applications in TVs and mobile devices look likeliest to be the first large scale commercial applications of Graphene, and Samsung, along with LG (also South Korean), has substantial market shares and core competences already in these products.
The South Korean firms favour licensing as a method of opening markets and diffusing products through those markets, and their open networking approach, coupled with applied R&D, enables them to quickly dominate. It seems that, yet again, the UK is destined to be instrumental in giving the world a wonder product but failing to capitalize on its commercial applications and revenue streams.
via Business Insider
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