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Europe and nanotechnologiesWhichfuture?

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Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, L’Arsenal, Boulevard Louis Schmidt 29, Brussels, 1040, Belgium


Where the European and national legislative frameworks remain unclear, patent applications relating to nanotechnology remain few. Nanotechnology being used both by multinationals and start-ups, it is difficult to predict whether, in the long run, Europe will provide a competitive market for nano applications in comparison with the US and the Far East.


Nanotechnology is the technology that enables manipulation of the smallest units of matter: individual molecules. It is hoped that it will greatly improve the quality of many kinds of products. The results achieved by nanotechnology as applied to industry have been likened to the Industrial Revolution.
For a long time there was a European debate on the need for specific legislation on production, handling and labelling of nanotechnology. The European Commission considered that nanomaterial was adequately covered by existing legislation. Relevant legislation includes general Regulations relating to chemical substances (1), the protection of workers (2) and the environment, and more specific pieces of legislation concerning individual products, such as medical devices (3), food for animals (4), cosmetics (5), plant protection products (6) and biocides (7).
There is however general consensus such that, in addition to a legislative framework that is applicable to nanotechnology generally, an enhanced legal framework is necessary to enable society to benefit from novel applications whilst at the same time maintaining a high ...