After Apple applied the fingerprint recognition technology to the iPhone 5S in 2013, many companies have been making efforts to develop fingerprint recognition technologies using ultrasound, and this has led to a surge in patent applications.
According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) on April 28, 686 patents related to ultrasonic fingerprint recognition had been filed for the last 10 years (2009-2018), with about 90 percent of the applications filed during the last five years from 2014 to 2018.
There are three types of fingerprint recognition technology: capacitive, optical and ultrasonic. The capacitive type recognizes the fingerprint through the electrical differences according to the curves of the fingerprint surface, while the optical fingerprint recognizes the image obtained by the optical method and compares it with the registered fingerprint information. The ultrasonic type measures the time of returning ultrasonic waves from the fingerprint and measures the height differences of the fingerprints. Compared with other methods, the ultrasonic method has lower fingerprint authentication failure rate, is excellent in security and can safely recognize fingerprints even in a humid and sunny environment.
Due to these advantages, patent applications related to ultrasonic fingerprint technology have gradually begun to increase from four cases in 2009 to 14 cases in 2012 to 29 cases in 2013, and after reaching 81 cases in 2014, it increased at large intervals, increasing to 193 cases in 2015 and peaking in 2016 with 199 cases. Since then, the number has dropped to 132 cases in 2017 and to 16 last year.
This is due to high interest and demand on relevant technologies owning to the fact that the ultrasonic fingerprint recognition technology has the functional merits of being difficult to counterfeit and that it was innovatively designed by eliminating the home button and bezel and enlarging the screen.
For the applicant type, companies accounted for 94.3 percent (647 cases) of the total, showing that they practically led the patent application.