The wide use of rare earth metals as core materials in electric vehicles and solar power generation are fueling patent applications related to the use of rare earth materials in permanent magnets and batteries.
According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) on Dec. 30, the number of patent applications related to the use of rare earth materials for permanent magnets and batteries totaled 2,356 over the past five years from 2011 to 2016.
Rare earth metals go into high-tech products such as cell phones, tablet PCs, light emitting diodes (LEDs), permanent magnets for motors of hybrid and electric cars, cathode-ray tubes for batteries and solar power generation equipment.
Among patent applications that have been filed since 2000, those related to the use of rare earth materials for permanent magnets totaled 3,232, of which 1,267 were filed with domestic patent agency and 1,965 with foreign agencies. Samsung Electronics applied for 61, the most, followed by Hyundai Motor (56), Samsung Electro-Mechanics (48) and LG Innotek (33).
Domestic companies that have filed patent applications since 2000 related with the use of rare earth materials for batteries included Samsung SDI (81 patent applications), LG Chem (33), Samsung Electronics (32) and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (24).
Large companies led patent applications because the use of rare earth metals for permanent magnets and batteries requires high technology and know-how in the processes of separation, refining and alloying.