Every time a new epidemic broke out, research and development (R&D) on masks increased significantly, patent data show.
The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) announced on Feb. 4 that the annual average number of bacterial and virus mask patent applications over the past five years (2014-2018) stood at 68, nearly double the annual average of 37 in the previous five years.
There have been big runs on masks against bacteria, viruses and dust during the outbreaks of epidemics at home and abroad. At the time of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2015, 84 mask patents were filed. That was the highest number of mask patent applications over the last 10 years. In 2009, KIPO received 73 patent applications on masks when swine flu struck. The figure was the second highest after the 84 in 2015.
Unique mask technologies included products with embedded heat rays that radiate heat to suppress virus activation, and products that sequentially filter air through an outer layer, a filter layer, and an inner layer depending on the size of a pollutant.