Patent analysis: GaN power devices

The GaN devices market for power electronics application will explode in 2016, reaching US$300 million in 2020, Yole Développement (Yole) announced in its latest power electronic report, entitled GaN and SiC devices for power electronics applications (July 2015). The “More than Moore” market research and strategy consulting company Yole, highlights an increasing interest of numerous industrial companies already involved in this sector.

“The future GaN power devices market is also depending on the global patent landscape and coming mergers and acquisitions,” explained Dr. Nicolas Baron, CEO of KnowMade, partner of Yole.
Indeed KnowMade and Yole’s analysts are working together for a long time in order to combine their technical expertise and market knowledge. Both companies combine their vision of the industry and create a high added-value synergy through technical, market and patent analysis on the disruptive technology markets.

power GaN

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Nicolas Baron detailed: “To dominate the GaN power devices market, industrial companies will have to anticipate changes, identify business opportunities, mitigate risks and make strategic decisions to strengthen their market positioning and maximize return on IP portfolio.” But who owns these patents? To answer to these questions, KnowMade proposes today a comprehensive patent analysis dedicated to the GaN devices for power electronic applications. This report is entitled Power GaN Devices for Power Electronics patent investigation: under this report, KnowMade’s experts review the technical challenges, highlight the business opportunits and detail a comprehensive IP landscape.

Today, there are only a few players selling power GaN products: Infineon/International Rectifier, EPC, GaN Systems, Transphorm are the main companies. The market is still small, estimated at US$10 million in 2015 (Source: GaN and SiC devices for power electronics application report, July 2015, Yole Développement).

“But, the ramp-up will be quite impressive, starting in 2016, at an estimated 93 percent CAGR through 2016-2020, with an estimated 2020 device market size of more than US$300 million in the baseline ‘nominal’ scenario,” explained Dr. Hong Lin, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole.

The GaN devices for power electronics industry is consolidating in preparation for this significant growth. This can been seen in:

-  The recent acquisitions of International Rectifier (IR) by Infineon
-  The license agreements between Infineon and Panasonic and between Transphorm and Furukawa
-  And the will of several firms to move onto the mass production stage. Transphorm/Fujitsu is a good example.

Under the GaN Devices for Power Electronics patent investigation, KnowMade’s experts identified more than 1,960 worldwide patented inventions related to GaN for power electronic applications up to April 2015 and more than 200 patent applicants. Most of the major silicon power players are present in the list of the top patent applicants.

“Those figure indicate a strong interest from power electronic players in the GaN business” commented Dr. Nicolas Baron from KnowMade. And he added: “So far, only IR/Infineon has commercialized GaN devices. But other traditional power players are able to disrupt and reshape the market, armed with strong IP.”

According to this patent investigation, it can be safely assumed that IR has the best patent portfolio in power GaN, and IR/Infineon combined company has the strongest IP, putting them in position to lead GaN power market growth.

However, this IP leadership position could evolve in the future since newcomers like Transphorm, Fujitsu and Mitsubishi Electric are becoming major forces and may reshape the landscape:

- Transphorm is the most important IP challenger in the power GaN arena, ahead of other GaN start-ups like EPC and GaN Systems. Its patent portfolio and partnerships with the likes of Furukawa, Fujitsu and On Semiconductor have put it in a strong position to take a leading role in the GaN device market. Furukawa Electric has an ample IP portfolio with a significant ‘blocking potential’, but the company hasn’t been able yet to commercialize the technology on its own. By giving Transphorm exclusive licensing rights on its GaN patent portfolio, Furukawa Electric has found a strategic partner to bring its technology to market.

- In parallel, both companies, Fujitsu and Mitsubishi Electric have demonstrated an interest in power GaN technology since 2010 with a strong increase of their patenting activity these last 3 years, heralding substantial future IP portfolios.

With this new GaN patent analysis KnowMade and Yole review the power GaN technology and market trends, including technical challenges and known solutions. Both partners propose a deep understanding of the IP landscape and related key trends in IP and technology development.
This analysis lists as well the major players and relative strength of their patent portfolio. It also identifies the new players.

The analysts highlight the IP collaboration networks between the key players and propose a deep added-value synthesis of their strategic decisions.

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