Examining the MEMS gyroscope patent landscape

The gyroscope market is driven by mobile applications, where until recently only two players, STMicroelectronics (ST) and InvenSense, were competing. Now, many companies are present. The first patent disputes to develop over the last few years (linked to Wacoh’s patents) or that are currently occurring (ST vs. InvenSense) signal the beginning of a fight for gyro and inertial combo market ownership.

This analysis represents a link to the technical trends, Yole Développement has observed in the industry. Comparisons and matching between existing product process flows (reconstituted from teardowns) and related patents are provided. In particular, a case study on InvenSense’s MPU-9150 9-axis sensor is included.

As illustrated by the aforementioned disputes, IP is critical in this area; thus, the link between IP and market evolution is critical as well. One of this report’s most important findings is that the focus has shifted to the software side, where considerable value can be created. Indeed, an increasing number of companies with different value chain positions are developing functionalities based on MEMS gyroscopes, along with related IP.

Understanding the key players’ patent portfolios

MEMS gyroscopes

About 200 players are involved in MEMS gyroscope technologies, but the top ten represent 63 percent of the patents filed. Panasonic and Murata lead the way, according to Yole Développement. Both were early players in the industry, with piezo/ceramic style gyroscopes. Other players such as Analog Devices, Robert Bosch, ST and InvenSense developed their technologies based on silicon substrates and the capacitive detection principle. It’s important to note that these players’ MEMS portfolios are generally much larger than what’s included in this report, since many of their patents are generic publications which can apply to many types of MEMS components, and not specifically to gyros. This report provides an in-depth patent portfolio analysis of the three assignees which Yole Développement identifies as today’s industry leaders: STMicroelectroncis, InvenSense and Robert Bosch.

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