The guidance of Ballard Spahr’s patent attorneys has helped transform a cutting-edge water purification technology developed by the University of California at Los Angeles into a viable commercial enterprise.  

It began about a decade ago, when UCLA researchers were searching for a less expensive way to remove salt from seawater to make it suitable for drinking. Using nanotechnology, they devised an extremely thin membrane capable of filtering out impurities through a process known as reverse osmosis desalination, which is more energy-efficient than conventional water filters. Then, the University retained Ballard Spahr for help with patenting the technology.

Mitchell A. Katz, Chair of the firm's Intellectual Property Department and Practice Leader of its Patents Group, and D. Brian Shortell, Ph.D., leader of the firm's nanotechnology and pharmaceutical patents teams, wrote the foundational patents for UCLA in 2005. The research led to the formation of NanoH2O, a California-based clean technology startup that secured the exclusive license to the membrane technology. Dr. Shortell also handled the subsequent due diligence for investments in the technology.

The technology’s commercialization reached a significant milestone more recently when LG Chem Ltd., South Korea’s largest chemical company, announced that it would purchase NanoH2O for $200 million. NanoH2O will become wholly owned by LG Chem, which is aiming to boost its water-treatment filter business.

"This acquisition is another example of how we help our entrepreneur and university clients identify, secure, and protect their intellectual property and ultimately commercialize their IP assets," Dr. Shortell said.