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Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors Patent Landscape

leadership of patent applicants capacitive fingerprint sensors
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Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors iconeNew strong IP enthusiasm and new players such as Apple are leaving their imprint on the market

To this date, fingerprint sensing technology is the most reliable and widespread biometric technology and fingerprint sensors are well developed. This patent landscape focuses on fingerprint sensors using capacitive sensing technology. The domain of capacitive fingerprint sensors is closely linked to the development of electronic devices, especially smartphones and the like, and the growing demand for security. Capacitive fingerprint sensors of a new generation have been incorporated in the most recent smartphones of companies like Apple or Samsung.

More than 650 patent families related to capacitive fingerprint sensors have been published worldwide up to October 2014. In the early 80s, Siemens published the 1st capacitive fingerprint sensor. However, the 2nd patent, published by Philips, came out only a decade later and the number of patent applications really started to rise in 1997. This phenomenon lasted until 2005. From that year, the number of new patents started to decrease and stagnate. However, a 2nd phase of development is currently occurring as revealed by the increasing number of new patents published since 2012.

Time Evolution of Patent Publications

The capacitive fingerprint sensing technologies involve more than 100 different applicants, mainly semiconductor and electronics companies. The main IP holders in the domain are Seiko Epson, AuthenTec, Sony and STMicroelectronics. With the 2nd phase of development, new players are emerging, especially Apple is coming into play strongly lately in the capacitive fingerprint sensor field.

The pioneer patents on capacitive fingerprint sensing technology are no longer in force and more than 200 granted patents are expected to expire by 2020. However, the number of new patent publications is increasing again since 2012, underlying a new enthusiasm for capacitive fingerprint sensors. As the development of those sensors is linked to electronic devices market, the growing market of those devices should drive the innovation in the capacitive fingerprint sensing technologies and the number of new patent applications in the domain is expected to keep rising.

The 650+ patent families selected for this study have been manually segmented by applications. About 80% of those families disclose a device comprising a sensor and the main applications for sensors of the capacitive type are Ic cards and electronic devices. Thus capacitive fingerprint sensors are developed to be compatible with such devices. Key features are the size and the thickness of the sensor as well as swiftness and convenience for the user. Currently two types of sensors are developed : touch and swipe sensors.

Technology issues capacitive fingerprint sensors

More than 15 companies are deeply involved in capacitive fingerprint sensing IP. Key players include electronics companies, semiconductor manufacturers, mobile device providers, fingerprint sensor component providers. The report provides a ranking and analysis of the relative strength of the top patent holders derived from their portfolio size, patent citations networks, countries of patents filings, current legal status of patents. Through this thorough analysis, we have identified 15+ major players, each of which is profiled in this report. Each profile includes a detailed portfolio analysis with patent activities, key patents, impact of portfolio, granted patents near expiration and IP strategies.

Mapping of Main Current IP Holders capacitive fingerprint sensors

The business sector of capacitive fingerprint sensors has been subject to different mergers and acquisitions, reshaping the IP network. In the last couple of years, new IP challengers appeared in the field and the leadership of patent applicants should evolve in the future.

Our report also includes an Excel database containing all of the analyzed patents. This database allows for multi-criteria searches and includes patent publication number, hyperlinks to the original documents, priority date, title, abstract, patent assignees, technological segments and legal status for each member of the patent family.

Leadership of Patent Applicants capacitive fingerprint sensors

Table of contents

Introduction 3
The Authors 4
Scope of the Report 5
Key Features of the Report 6
Objectives of the Report 8
Terminology for Patent Analysis 9
Methodology 12
Patent Search Strategy 14
Assignees Mentioned in this Report 15
Executive Summary 20

Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors Patent Landscape Overview 28
Time Evolution of Patent Publications 29
Countries of Patent Filings 30
Time Evolution by Country of Filing 31
Current Legal Status of Patents 32
Main Patent Applicants Ranking 33
Time Evolution of Patent Applicants 34
Main IPC Classes 35
Time Evolution by IPC 36
Matrix Applicants / Main IPC 37
Technology Issues 38
Countries of Filing for Main Patent Applicants 39
Mapping of Main Current IP Holders 40
Mapping of Main Current IP Applicants 41
Summary of Applicant’s Patent Portfolio 42
Degree of Specialization in Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors 44
Leadership of Patent Applicants 45
Impact Factor of Patent Portfolios 46
Patent Applicant IP Network 48
IP Blocking Potential of Applicants 50
Key Patent Families 51
Granted Patents Near Expiration 53
Main Patent Litigation Atmel vs AuthenTec 55

Main Patent Litigation AuthenTec vs Atrua 56
Main Patent Litigation Upek vs AuthenTec 57
Main Patent Litigation Idex vs Upek & STMicroelectronics 58
Potential Future Plaintiffs 59
Summary of Key Players 60

Seiko Epson 61
Sony 62
Infineon Technologies 63
Siemens 64
AuthenTec 65
Apple 66
Upek 67
STMicroelectronics 68
ALPS Electric 69
LighTuning Technology 70
Himax Technologies 71
NTT 72
Fujitsu 73
Philips 74
O-film Tech. 75
Idex 76
Conclusions 77

Annexes 82
Methodology for Key Patent Identification 83
KNOWMADE Company presentation 85
Contact 94


Companies cited

ALPS Electric
Biometric Technology
Egis Technology
Himax Technologies
Infineon Technologies
O-film Technology
Seiko Epson



The report provides essential patent data for fingerprint sensors of the capacitive type including:

  • Time evolution of patent publications and countries of patent filings.
  • Current legal status of patents.
  • Ranking of main patent applicants.
  • Joint developments and IP collaboration network of main patent applicants.
  • Key patents.
  • Granted patents near expiration.
  • Relative strength of main companies IP portfolio.
  • Overview of patent litigations
  • Capacitive fingerprint sensor IP profiles of 15+ major companies with key patents, partnerships, and IP strength and strategy.
  • The report also provides an extensive Excel database with all patents analyzed in the study.