Oct. 13, 2003 – Armed with a new name, streamlined operations and a thick portfolio of patents, Nano-Proprietary aims to dominate the big screen television market by licensing its carbon nanotube technology to manufacturers.
Formerly known as SI Diamond Technology, the company changed its name in June to reflect a restructuring that included the 2002 sale of a manufacturing subsidiary. The company also shifted another unit from direct sales and installation to only licensing. Mounting liabilities and a weak cash position forced the firm to pare down to what its chairman called “the core of the company.”
Now the Austin, Tex.-based company is concentrating on what it does best: the development of intellectual property related to flat screen displays.
“Our business is focused on licensing our technology,” said chairman and CEO Marc Eller. “Our model is working with companies on the development side, getting them to the point where they can use it in manufacturing, then licensing it to them,” Company leaders say their patents essentially control any application where there are emissions from a carbon nanotube. Calling flat-panel displays “the holy grail” of the market, Eller said his goal is to capitalize on budding consumer demand for affordable big screen TVs.
Currently, consumers pay upwards to $15,000 for 50 to 60-inch screens. But companies such as Motorola, Noritake and Samsung have said they will be able to manufacture screens for a fraction of that cost — about $1,200, according to Motorola — if carbon nanotube technology becomes viable.
As Eller put it, “Suddenly, your market is gigantic. That’s what everybody is aiming for — to get to middle America.”
In September, Nano-Proprietary announced it had formed a consortium with Japanese component manufacturers to demonstrate that carbon nanotube televisions have progressed enough to enable high volume manufacturing. The company did not disclose the companies’ names.
“You can’t make a display without the patented processes we have,” said Eller. He said the company, which operates through subsidiary Applied Nanotech, Inc., has more than 100 patents issued or allowed and another 60 pending.
By 2010, the market for big screens is projected to be $100 billion, said Zvi Yaniv, president and CEO of Applied Nanotech. While he and the rest of the company’s leadership seem confident about grabbing the lion’s share of the market, there is still the possibility that competitors could circumvent Nano-Proprietary’s patents.
“There are a number of companies working in the field that believe their technology is significantly different so they won’t have to license Nano-Proprietary’s technology,” said Barry Young, vice president and CFO of DisplaySearch, a research and consulting firm.
Besides flat-screen displays, Nano-Proprietary holds patents related to hydrogen sensors and nanomaterials. It has a licensing agreement with Oxford Instruments, a manufacturer of X-ray machines that use carbon nanotube cathodes, and is involved in the development of sensors used to detect hydrogen in commercial power plants.
“We identified very early in the game that carbon nanotubes have a very strong electron emission,” said Yaniv. He predicts the company will become “a very strong IP house for nanotechnology, with money coming from royalties,” as well as maintain a strong research team to pioneer new breakthroughs.
3006 Longhorn Blvd., Suite 107
Austin, TX 78758
Nano-Proprietary is a holding company with two subsidiaries, Applied Nanotech, Inc. and EBT, Inc. Incorporated in 1989 as SI Diamond, the company took an IPO in 1993. SI Diamond announced the renaming of its FEPET subsidiary to Applied Nanotech in February 2002. The holding company itself soon followed suit, with its name change effective July 2003.
Nano-Proprietary completed a private placement in October 2003 with net proceeds of just over $2.2 million.
Electronic display technology
Small tech-related products and services
Nano-Proprietary’s subsidiary Applied Nanotech licenses intellectual property pertaining primarily to carbon nanotube field emission technology. The company’s research in this area provides the underpinnings of their extensive patent portfolio. Other areas of expertise include hydrogen sensors and nanomaterials.
Electron-emitting carbon nanotube cathodes can lead to development of applications including advanced flat-screen displays, lighting systems and X-ray equipment.
Marc Eller: president and chief executive officer, Nano-Proprietary, Inc.
Douglas Baker: chief financial officer, Nano-Proprietary, Inc.
Dr. Zvi Yaniv: president and chief executive officer, Applied Nanotech, Inc.
After garnering 99% of its 1992 revenues from government contracts, SI Diamond went public in February 1993. Thereafter, government contracts continued as a sporadic revenue source. Other revenues have been sourced from one-time licensing agreements (Canon) as well as long-term licensing arrangements. Following the sale of subsidiary SBOA’s assets, manufacturing no longer generates company revenues.
$1.4 million (2002)
Barriers to market
Many firms are experimenting with display technologies involving carbon nanotubes. Companies that develop unique methodologies may be able to do an end run around Nano-Proprietary’s patents and offer their technology to customers.
– Research by Gretchen McNeely