Sudden increase in patent application filings regarding next generation power semiconductors
According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), patent applications in relation to next generation power semiconductors based on silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are suddenly increasing.
The number of applications filed has continuously increased as can be seen from the 10 cases in 2015, 13 cases in 2016, and 18 cases in 2017. Then, in 2018, the number increased 83.3% (33 cases) compared to the previous year, 2017.
It is considered that this increase is the result of research and development being actively made in relation to next generation power semiconductors for which demand is expected to rapidly increase in high-voltage application fields such as electric automobiles and new renewable energy, etc.
Existing power semiconductors based on silicon (Si) have the advantage of being inexpensive. However, in order to guarantee high levels of durability and reliability in severe vehicle operating environments, there have also been limitations to the structural and design improvements possible for such power semiconductors.
Meanwhile, recently spotlighted power semiconductors based on silicon carbide and gallium nitride have demonstrated outstanding special material qualities in that they can operate stably in high temperatures and high pressures compared to silicon. This makes possible innovations that can improve power semiconductor miniaturization, weight reduction and power efficiency.
However, there are some disadvantages in that it is difficult to commercialize such processes or that high costs are involved, so there remain plenty of technical challenges to resolve in order to bring such new power semiconductors to market in earnest.
Looking at applicants, it can be seen that the percentage of domestic applicants, which was 40% in 2015, suddenly increased to 66.6% in 2018.
It is assumed that this increase was due to domestic corporations putting active investment into non-memory power semiconductors, a field which had been assessed as being underinvested compared to the memory field.
Also, the number of applications filed by small and medium-sized or mid-sized businesses was less than 5 cases prior to 2017; however, the number notably increased to 13 cases in 2018.
<Annual Application Trends >
It is especially anticipated that application filings by domestic corporations, including small and medium-sized or mid-sized businesses, will continue to increase in the future since the ‘Vision and Strategy of System Semiconductors’ released last May contains contents intensively supporting next generation power semiconductors as well as supporting the establishment and development of Fabless enterprises.
The Electronic Parts Examination Division of KIPO stated that “In light of the trend of energy efficiency being emphasized, the power semiconductor field is a field of opportunity for Fabless and small and medium-sized or mid-sized businesses”. The division also mentioned that “Continuous accumulation of technology and gaining strong patents will be needed considering that the industrial characteristics involved require a high level of credibility.