Nanosys is a Palo Alto company that develops advanced architected nanomaterials technology, including quantum dots for LEDs and silicon nanowire composites for advanced batteries.
Quantum dots are nano-sized semiconductors which emit light when excited.
Nanosys’s quantum dot phosphors convert blue light from a standard GaN LED into different wavelengths. Depending on the size of the dots used, LED light that passes through a film containing the dots can adjust the spectrum to convert the emitted light to various colors, including the white light the human eye is used to.
I recently spoke with Andrew Filler, Vice President of Intellectual Property, about the company’s patent portfolio. Filler told me that Nanosys owns and/or exclusively controls over 750 U.S. patents and pending applications, with about 235 issued U.S. patents and another approximately 200 issued international patents.
A search in Cleantech PatentEdge™ yields 201 U.S., international and European patents and published applications listing Nanosys as owner and assignee.
Filler said that Nanosys’s patents comprise several technology or product families, including, for example with respect to its quantum dot technology, the core material of the quantum dots, the material for the shell that surrounds the core, ligands to put the dots in a matrix, quantum dot films, various quantum dot combinations, and devices such as light sources with quantum dots for producing white light.
One substantial patent family relating to core-shell material is entitled “Highly Luminescent Color-Selective Nano-crystalline materials” which has been exclusively licensed to Nanosys from MIT and, according to Cleantech PatentEdge™, includes at least 8 issued U.S. patents and 4 or more pending/allowed U.S. applications (Nano Matrix Patents).
For example, U.S. Patent No. 6,322,901 (’901 Patent) is the parent patent in this family and was recently successfully defended in an ex parte reexamination proceeding instituted by Nanoco in the United Kingdom.
According to Filler, on October 1, 2010 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a Notice of Intent to Issue in the ‘901 patent Reexamination, thereby validating all of the original broad core-shell quantum dot claims in their originally issued form, as well as the 19 new claims added during reexamination.
Nanosys also owns or controls exclusive rights to over 125 issued U.S. patents and pending patent applications (and over 150 corresponding foreign applications) covering all aspects of the QD-LED technology and applications, as illustrated in the sample patents provided below in Figure 1.
The ‘901 patent represents just one of several fundamental patents covering core-shell quantum dot compositions and manufacturing techniques.
In addition, Nanosys IP provides comprehensive coverage of nanocrystals, core-only quantum dots, nanocrystal/quantum dot synthesis, integration techniques, ligand and matrix materials and chemistries, quantum dot composites, and applications and devices including white light devices and other specific QD applications.
Some of Nanosys’s patents relate to fundamental small molecules for use with nanocrystals. One example is U.S. Patent No. 6,949,206, granted in 2005 and entitled “Organic species that facilitate charge transfer to or from nanostructures” (’206 Patent).
The ’206 Patent is directed to conductive compositions for modification of charge transport across a nanostructure-containing matrix and claims a number of different molecules.
These molecules are coupled to a nanostructure via a binding group, cause an exciton in the nanostructure, and facilitate the injection and/or extraction of charge with respect to the nanostructure.
By searching in Cleantech PatentEdge™, I found as one example of a patent family relating to LED devices “Light-emitting diode (LED) devices comprising nanocrystals,” which includes at least two published U.S. applications.
An example is Application Publication No. 2010/0110728 (’728 Application), which is directed to an LED device having nanocrystals in a hermetically sealed container.
LED device (700) comprises LED (702) on a substrate (706). A hermetically sealed container (708) contains a plurality of luminescent nanocrystals (710) and is optically coupled to the LED (702).
A light guide (712) is optically coupled to the hermetically sealed container (708). A first portion of the light emitted from the LED (702) is down-converted by the luminescent nanocrystals (710), and this down-converted light along with a second portion of LED light are emitted from the light guide (712).
FIGS. 14A and 14B illustrate the down-converted light (1414, 1416) and the second portion of light (1412) in more detail in LED devices (1400, 1401) with luminescent nanocrystals (710) dispersed in a region (1404, 1404′) within the light guide (712).
According to the ’728 Application, hermetically sealing luminescent crystals allows for increased usage lifetime and luminescent intensity.
The business based on Nanosys’ patent-protected technology seems to be working well. Filler told me that Nanosys made a “multi-prong” deal with Samsung worth up to $80-90 million, cutting across different products including flash memory devices, solar cells, film transistor displays, and LED lighting its U.S. Lumidots business.
Eric Lane is a patent attorney at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.