Jack Ellis

Earlier this week, IAM reported on Philips' sale of the majority of its LED lighting unit Lumileds to a Chinese-led investment consortium. The deal - which is expected to complete during the third quarter of this year, subject to conditions and regulatory approval - will create one of the most formidable players in LED lighting. The technologies concerned have a range of potential applications across diverse industries; and, as such, many of the patents protecting them will likely prove to be of significant strategic value.

A recent study from IP research firm Relecura gives us some idea of the industry landscape, in patent terms, that the newly spun-out Lumileds will find itself in. The first table below is a modified version of one that appears in the report, listing the top 20 holders of LED lighting patents worldwide (please note that these statistics cover LED lighting, and not LED display, technology). As you can see, European and Asian companies dominate, with those from Japan particularly conspicuous. The data below is based on analysis of 131,927 relevant patent documents for LED lighting technologies comprising 54,323 equivalents.

Top 20 patent holders in LED lighting technologies:

Patent owner Country Number of equivalents Share of equivalents
Philips Netherlands 2,419 4.45%
Osram Germany 1,372 2.53%
Panasonic Japan 1,058 1.95%
Samsung South Korea 988 1.82%
Cree United States 839 1.54%
Idemitsu Kosan Japan 817 1.50%
LG South Korea 727 1.34%
Toshiba Japan 693 1.28%
Semiconductor Energy Laboratory Japan 584 1.08%
Koito Manufacturing Japan 571 1.05%
Hon Hai/Foxconn Group Taiwan 545 1.00%
Sharp Japan 5.01 0.92%
Canon Japan  494 0.91%
Sumitomo Japan 437 0.80%
General Electric United States 384 0.71%
Merck [Merck Sharp & Dohme] United States 367 0.68%
Konica Minolta Japan 286 0.53%
Fujifilm Japan 249 0.46%
Rohm Japan 245 0.45%
3M United States 243 0.45%

A Lumileds independent of Philips is likely to appear fairly high up in this ranking, even if not all of the 600-plus patent assets that it will receive from its current parent company are directly relevant to LED lighting.

Digging down a little deeper, the report's authors also take a look at the top patent holders in more specific areas of LED lighting; namely, in the medical and automotive fields. The interesting thing here is how entities from outside those industries look set to be important actors within them, if only by virtue of their substantial patent holdings. There are clear echoes here of the smartphone and wireless device industry, where technological convergence, complexity and competition led to a highly active - and for much of the time, a highly turbulent - market in IP assets. In the two tables below, names of entities that we would not typically think of as categorically being 'medical device' or 'automotive' industry participants, respectively, are italicised. Some of these entities are subsidiaries or affiliates of others that may also appear in the tables. In such cases I have included the name of the parent entity in parentheses alongside, where possible.

Top 20 patent holders in LED lighting technologies with medical applications:

Patent holder Country Number of equivalents
Olympus Japan 114
Philips Netherlands 26
Fujifilm Japan 24
Boston Scientific United States 14
Welch Allyn United States 13
Life Technologies (Thermo Fisher Scientific) United States 10

Pentax (Ricoh)

Japan 10
Trumpf Medizin Systeme Germany 10
Osram Germany 9
Siemens Germany 9
Smith & Nephew United Kingdom 9
JP Morgan Chase United States 8
Lumencor United States 8
Merck United States 8
Optim United States 7
Karl Storz Germany 7
Applied Biosystems (Thermo Fisher Scientific) United States 6
Carl Zeiss Foundation Germany 6
General Scientific United States 6
Asahi Optical (Ricoh) Japan 5


Top 20 patent holders in LED lighting technologies with automotive/transportation applications:

Patent holder Country Number of equivalents
Koito Manufacturing Japan 538
Hella Germany 241
Osram Germany 226
Valeo France 208
Stanley Electric Japan 205
Philips Netherlands 151
Automotive Lighting  Germany 148
Ichikoh Japan 89
Sharp Japan  84
Daimler Germany 79
Volkswagen Germany 79
General Motors United States 45
Magna Canada 44
Odelo Germany 41
Toyoda Gosei Japan 39
Visteon United States 38
Zizala Lichtsysteme (ZKW Group) Austria 36
Honda Japan 34
VC Aviation Services (Visteon) United States 30
Ford United States 28