With an increasing number of cars becoming digitalized, there is increased demand for automotive semiconductors to replace mechanical components. Hence, semiconductor companies are actively seeking to secure related patents.
According to the Korea Intellectual Property Office on Sept. 24, the number of patent applications for automotive semiconductors by major companies grew by 20.5 percent on average from 2010 to Aug. 2015.
There were only 68 patent applications in 2010, but the case has increased twofold in 4 years, as shown by 79 cases in 2011, 110 in 2012, 106 in 2013, and 138 in 2014. A total of 122 patents were filed for automotive semiconductors from Jan. to Aug. 2015, and so the figure for this year is expected to exceed that of last year.
Automotive semiconductors are used for sensors, electronic control units, and gears in the car, which demand more stability and durability than semiconductors used in PCs or cell phones. Currently, more than 200 semiconductors, including memory and non-memory semiconductors and microcontrollers, are needed to build a car. Many more semiconductors are expected to be used in the future for driverless cars.
Patents related to integrated circuits utilized in electronic control accounted for 30 percent of total patent applications. Those in the fields of power and discrete elements, or sensors, made up 8 percent and 6 percent each in the early 2000s. However, the number has increased by a great deal over the last five years, as witnessed by the fact that they constituted 27 percent and 12 percent, respectively. The increase is attributable to the active development of technology for eco-friendly cars like hybrid cars or electric cars, for which it is necessary to effectively control the power of batteries as well as autonomous vehicles.
Meanwhile, market research firm IHS iSuppli said that the automotive semiconductor market grew 10 percent year-on-year to reach US$29 billion (32 trillion won) last year, and the market is expected to amount to US$40 billion (44 trillion won) in 2020. Market research firm IC Insights also predicted that the market will grow 10.8 percent on average, the highest growth rate among the semiconductor market.