Function vs. Size: Patenting Nano-scale Cosmetic Inventions

Nanometer-scale components such as nanoparticles are increasingly common in modern cosmetic formulations, and they accomplish (or at least purport to accomplish) a variety of different functions and effects, including improved sunscreening, unique color effects, and even strengthened mechanical and chemical bonding. With such increasing use of nanometer-scale components—that is, particles or structures in the range of 1–100 nm in size—there has also been a corresponding increase in the number of patent applications and patents issued in the field by the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The challenge for an inventor and his or her legal counsel, however, relates to how to describe and claim these nanometer-scale features of the invention in the patent.

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