This one blows my mind. Maybe the LHC has created some timewarp in Europe, as this battle has been going on for over fifty years!
Giulio Natta, of "Ziegler-Natta catalyst" fame, has still been fighting for patents on those cataylsts. And yes, he originally filed for the patents back in 1955. The Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit just decided that the last patent, US 6,365,687, issued in 2002, was obvious. Keep that in mind next time you see Nobel-prize winning research.
Natta himself died back in 1979, and as the patent was assigned to Basell, he has no skin the game. Additionally, this technology is now so commonplace that it is in undergraduate textbooks and has moved on to second, third, fourth... generation constrained-geometry catalysts/cocatlyst systems. I'm not sure that there is much value to the patent any more. If a company is still using this 50-year old technology, it won't be doing so much longer.
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