Issue



Dear reader,


05/01/2007







As we put the finishing touches on our annual university rankings’ issue, the news is filled with reflection on the tragic shootings that took place at the Virginia Tech. And so we dedicate this issue to all those touched by that terrible event.

Proper education of the next generation of small-tech engineers, researchers, and technicians is key to the development of the technology and its applications-and to our nation’s competitiveness long-term. Several recent commercial and policy developments are facilitating our ability to succeed in this endeavor. Last issue we reported on a new generation of microscopes that will, because of their significantly lower price tags, allow more students and others to study micro- and nanoscience (see “Power microscopy for the masses,” Mar/Apr 2007, page 8). And breaking news on our way to print is that a new provision to U.S. competitiveness legislation authorizes use of National Science Foundation grant funds to acquire micro/nanotechnology equipment and software for teaching students in high schools, colleges, and universities.

Education is a top concern among industry players and observers. Another is the ability to process patent applications efficiently. In a recent online exclusive, Small Times’ publisher Patti Glaza reported on a nanotechnology roundtable discussion led by Under Secretary for Technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce Robert Cresanti (see “Cresanti leads nano commercialization roundtable,” at www.smalltimes.com). The report’s coverage of small-tech patent application review frustrations drew a handful of responses-one from Cresanti, himself, and another from John Doll, Commissioner for Patents.

Challenging one particular line in the report, Doll said, “It is not ‘strong union forces,’ but federal law, that makes it harder for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to recruit and retain patent examiners.” He also explained the USPTO’s new use of special law provisions to overcome the shortage of qualified examiners.

Doll then detailed work being done to fast-track patent-application review, including the provision for applicants to request accelerated examination, “guaranteeing a final examiner decision within 12 months in return for adhering to certain requirements.” He said his department knows that more must be done to ensure micro- and nanotechnology developers get decisions on their patent applications more quickly. And in the letter he announced that the USPTO is “seeking solutions from the public and those with a stake in the patent system through a series of town hall meetings and focus groups we will hold later this year.” When Doll and his team finalize plans for these meetings, they will be announced on the USPTO Website.

“We welcome the thoughts and suggestions of readers of Small Times,” Doll concluded. So send your thoughts and suggestions to me at barbarag@pennwell.com, and I’ll pass them on to Doll.

Barbara G. Goode is editor-in-chief of Small Times. She can be reached at barbarag@pennwell.com.