Jack Ellis

An upcoming report from IP analytics firm iRunway has shed light on which companies are leading the field in light-emitting diode (LED) patent holdings.

LED lighting has a broad array of uses, with the technology potentially having applications in areas including commercial, residential and street lighting, digital communications, and displays for televisions, personal computers and mobile devices, among others. According to the study – a pre-release copy of which can be downloaded here – the LED industry is predicted to have grown by upwards of 54% during 2013, amounting to $25 billion in annual global sales. This huge potential means that competition is becoming increasingly fierce and, as a result, market players are seeking to obtain more patents covering LED-related technologies. They are also  more rigorously enforcing their IP rights.

The iRunway study states that there are currently more than 22,000 issued US patents relating to the LED space, with the majority of those being filed and granted in the past five to ten years. “Major players in the LED industry are currently involved, on an average, in almost three active litigations per company, and in numerous additional licensing agreements,” write the report’s authors. “By all appearances, the LED industry’s patenting practices have matured even before the technology itself has.”

iRunway has put together a table detailing the 15 companies that hold the largest portfolios of LED-related US patents, as well as their respective shares of ‘seminal patents’. To define and apportion holdings of these seminal assets, iRunway used a combination of manual research and a proprietary algorithm, and analysed factors such as infringement detection, number of independent and dependent claims, technology activity rate, backward and forward references and age of the patent. The table is reproduced below, with companies listed in order of their share of all USPTO-granted patents relating to LED technology:

Company Number of 'seminal' LED patents Share of 'seminal' patents Total number of LED patents Total share of all LED patents

 

Samsung 69 3.97% 1369 6.04%
LG 58 3.34% 737 3.25%
Philips 120 6.90% 599 2.64%
GE 26 1.50% 328 1.45%
Osram 28 1.61% 321 1.42%
Panasonic 18 1.04% 290 1.28%
Kodak 10 0.58% 285 1.26%
Cree 40 2.30% 264 1.16%
Seiko 12 0.69% 262 1.16%
Sony 17 0.98% 261 1.15%
Sharp 9 0.52% 258 1.14%
AU Optronics 4 0.23% 249 1.10%
Hitachi 9 0.52% 224 0.99%
Hon Hai 16 0.92% 209 0.92%

Semicon Energy

5 0.29% 203 0.90%

 

Samsung is the clear leader in terms of its share of total LED patents, while Philips has the highest share of ‘seminal’ patents in the field, despite its overall portfolio being less than half the size of the Korean company’s. Just over 20% of Philips’ overall LED patent portfolio consists of ‘seminal’ patents, compared to 5.04% of Samsung’s holdings.

The iRunway report suggests that LED technology is clearly a thriving area of R&D, patenting and commercialisation that presents some potentially very lucrative monetisation opportunities; and that, by extension, could become a key litigation battleground in the not too distant future. Back in June last year, Philips offered licence rights to over 600 of its LED-related patents via IPXI – the first IP rights to be marketed on the IP trading platform. The following month, the growth prospects in this field encouraged Rambus to look beyond its traditional focus on patent and technology licensing to begin offering an LED lighting product range built around patents it had acquired from Global Lighting Technologies for $26 million in December 2009.