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Nanotechnology's potential impact on worldwide industries has nations around the world investing billions of dollars for research in order to capture a part of the projected trillion dollar market for nanotechnology products in 2010. The current rush to patent nanotechnologies may lead to an overcrowded nanotechnology patent thicket that could deter critical innovation and continued product development in the United States. At this early stage of nanotechnology's life cycle, increasing numbers of broad and potentially overlapping patents are being issued-while few nonexclusive licenses are being offered. Furthermore, the lack of significant case law provides little guidance on proper nanotechnology patent scope and validity, while the decline of legal defenses such as experimental use leaves innovators exposed to potential infringement liability for even the most fundamental of scientific research studies. In this Comment, the author proposes that the U.S. government exercises the full extent of its rights under the twenty-five year old Bayh-Dole Act and develop the government license defense to create a limited patent compulsory licensing regime for the fruits of federally funded research. The author argues that recipients of the billions of dollars in federal nanotechnology research funds should provide broad, nonexclusive licenses to the privatized patent rights they obtain as a result of public funding. Ultimately, a well-formulated government license defense, which assesses the extent to which an "infringing" act against a federally funded patent falls along a spectrum of fair use, would provide a means for overcoming the innovation-impeding effects of absolute exclusion rights.

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