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GaN Devices for Power Electronics Patent Investigation

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couv Yole gan devicesThe GaN power market is underway. Are you ready for the global IP chess game that will follow?


The potential energy efficiency savings from the adoption of GaN power semiconductor devices has led to significant research and development that is now beginning to be realized in commercially available devices. Today, there are only a few players selling Power GaN products (Infineon/IR, EPC, GaN Systems, Transphorm) and the market is still small, estimated at $10M in 2015 in Yole Développement’s July 2015 ‘GaN and SiC devices for power electronics applications’ report. But the ramp-up will be quite impressive, starting in 2016, at an estimated 93% CAGR through 2016-2020, with an estimated 2020 device market size of more than $300M in the baseline ‘nominal’ scenario. The GaN power industry is consolidating in preparation for this significant growth, and GaN technology is spreading across the value chain. This can been seen in recent mergers and acquisitions (Infineon/IR, Transphorm/Fujitsu’s GaN Power Conversion business), license agreements (Infineon/Panasonic, Transphorm/Furukawa) and the will of several firms to move onto the mass production stage (Transphorm/Fujitsu). 

As GaN power devices are now poised for rapid market adoption, a strong intellectual property (IP) position is essential for companies to grow their GaN business. In today’s Power GaN market, it is crucial to understand the global patent landscape through in-depth analyses. This enables you to anticipate changes, harvest business opportunities, mitigate risks and make strategic decisions to strengthen your market position and maximize return on your IP portfolio.
Power_GaN_IP_dynamics_yole_knowmadeMore than 1,960 patented inventions related to GaN power electronics have been published worldwide up to April 2015. The first patents were published in the mid-1990s by silicon power companies (Furukawa Electric, International Rectifier, Infineon …). But the take-off of patenting activity was really observed ten years later with a first wave of patent publications over the 2005-2009 period, mainly due to American companies (International Rectifier, Power Integrations) and Japanese companies (Panasonic, Rohm, Furukawa Electric, Sumitomo Electric, Toshiba, Toyota). A second wave of patent publications started in 2010, mainly originating from Mitsubishi Electric, Fujitsu, Transphorm, Avogy and Infineon, while the first commercial products, collaborations, mergers and acquisitions emerged. Quite recently LED pure-players like Seoul Semiconductor have entered the Power GaN IP arena.
The time evolution of patent filings has reached a peak, and we expect a slowing down of new patent applications. Meanwhile, granted patents worldwide should increase after successful prosecution of the numerous pending patent applications. We believe the second peak of patent filings combined with the significant ratio of patents in force and the large number of patent applications still in the pipeline worldwide is an indication of the technology maturity heralding a future ramp-up of the GaN power market.



More than 200 patent applicants are involved in Power GaN IP. Most of the major silicon power players are present in the list of the top patent applicants, including International Rectifier/Infineon, Panasonic, Furukawa Electric, Sumitomo Electric, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba, Sharp, Fuji Electric, ROHM and Power Integrations. This indicates strong interest from power players in the GaN business. So far, only IR/Infineon has commercialized GaN devices. But other traditional power players are able to disrupt and reshape the market, armed with strong IP.

The report provides a ranking and analysis of the relative strength of the top patent holders derived from their portfolio size, patent citation networks, countries of patents filing and current legal status of patents. We reveal the IP strength of key Power GaN players and depict their competitive positioning.

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It can be safely assumed that International Rectifier (IR) has the best patent portfolio in Power GaN, and IR/Infineon combined company has the strongest IP, putting them in position to lead GaN power market growth. However, this IP leadership position could evolve in the future since newcomers like Transphorm, Fujitsu and Mitsubishi Electric are becoming major forces and may reshape the Power GaN patent landscape. Transphorm is the most important IP challenger in the Power GaN arena, ahead of other GaN start-ups like EPC and GaN Systems. Its patent portfolio and partnerships with the likes of Furukawa, Fujitsu and On Semiconductor have put it in a strong position to take a leading role in the GaN device market. Furukawa Electric has an ample IP portfolio with a significant ‘blocking potential’, but the company hasn’t been able yet to commercialize the technology on its own. By giving Transphorm exclusive licensing rights on its GaN patent portfolio, Furukawa Electric has found a strategic partner to bring its technology to market. Fujitsu and Mitsubishi Electric have demonstrated an interest in Power GaN technology since 2010 with a strong increase of their patenting activity these last 3 years, heralding substantial future IP portfolios.



The 1,960+ patented inventions selected for this study have been manually categorized by technology segment. The existing Power GaN IP covers the whole of the value chain, from epi-wafers and power semiconductor devices to discrete components, power modules, packaging, circuits and systems. The dataset of patents has been organized into various technical challenges (E-mode, cascode, E/D-mode monolithic, vertical devices, current collapse, dynamic R-on, gate charge, breakdown voltage, stray inductance, thermal issues, chip-scale package) and type of substrate for GaN epitaxy (SiC, silicon, bulk, sapphire). A special focus is provided on power semiconductor devices (transistors and diodes at the semiconductor level) and power components (discrete components, power modules and packaging).

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Power GaN IP is just beginning to be used as leverage by companies to negotiate licensing and supply agreements like those between Infineon and Panasonic and between Transphorm and Furukawa Electric. To this date, no litigation cases related to the Power GaN domain have been filed, but this should change as the market expands.



In our analysis, we have identified nine key players: International Rectifier (IR), Infineon, Transphorm, Fujitsu, Efficient Power Conversion (EPC), Power Integrations, GaN Systems, Panasonic and Mitsubishi Electric. For each one we provide a GaN Power IP profile including dynamics of their patent applications, key features of their patent portfolio, IP strength, collaboration network, key patents and recent patented technologies. We have identified key patents which could provide significant returns to their owners, in terms of market share, freedom of exploitation and additional revenue stream from royalties.



Our report also includes an Excel database containing all patents analyzed in the report with technology segmentation. This database allows for multi-criteria searches and includes patent number, legal status, priority date, title, abstract, patent assignees, technological segments, key patents and hyperlinks to the original documents.



  • Review the context for Power GaN technology and market trends.
  • Review Power GaN’s technical challenges and as known solutions.
  • Understand the IP landscape for GaN power electronics.
  • Comprehend key trends in IP and technology development.
  • List the major players and the relative strength of their patent portfolio.
  • Name new players.
  • Identify IP collaboration networks between key players (industrial and academic).
  • Position key players within the value chain and understand their strategic decisions.
  • Identify current legal status of patented technologies.
  • Identify key patents by assignees and technology.
  • Identify blocking and valuable patents.
  • Overview of past and current litigations and licensing agreements.
  • Avoid patent infringement.
  • Appreciate the link between the patent landscape and market evolutions.

Table of contents

The authors 5

Scope of the report 6
Key features of the report 7
Objectives of the report 9
Methodology 11
Patent search strategy 14
Patent segmentation 15
Summary 18
Introduction 69
> GaN devices for power electronics
> GaN device market size split by applications markets
> GaN device market 200V vs. 600V
Noteworthy news 74
IP overview 80
> Time evolution of patent publications
> Power GaN patent assignees
> IP collaboration network
> Power GaN patent assignee: origin of GaN involvement
> Main power GaN players and related business model
> First appearance of key players in the power GaN IP arena
> Time evolution of patent publications
> Time evolution of granted patents
> Announced GaN transistor products
> Mapping of patenting activity
> Time evolution of patent applications by country
> Time evolution of granted patents by country
> Market domination results from previous IP lead period
> Patent litigations and market evolution


Patent segmentation 99

  •  Technology segments 101

> Patent family split by technology segment
> Time evolution of patent publications split by technology segment
> Main patent assignees by technology segment
> Matrix key IP players / technology segments
> Mapping of patent filings by technology segment
> Industrial supply-chain

  • Technical challenges  108

> Main challenges for lateral GaN devices

> Main challenges for vertical GaN devices

> Main challenges for packaging

> Device parasitic

> Patent family split by technical challenges

> GaN power transistor: patent differentiation of key IP players

> matrix  key IP players / technical challenges


Focus on key technology segments 117

  • Power semiconductor devices 118
  • Power components 139

For each segment:
> Ranking of patent assignees
> Time evolution of main patent assignees
> Degree of specialization of patent assignees
> Mapping of patenting activity
> Countries of priority patents for main patent assignees
> Countries of patent filing for main patent assignees
> Mapping of main current patent holders
> Mapping of main current patent applicants
> Power GaN IP players
> IP collaboration network

> Assignee citation network
> Summary of main assignees’ patent portfolio
> Leadership of patent assignees
> Strength index of patent portfolios
> IP blocking potential of main patent assignees
> Potential future plaintiffs
> Granted patents near expiration


Focus on key power GaN IP players 160

> Timeline evolution of patent publications
> Mapping of granted patents
> Mapping of pending patents
> Geographical distribution of granted patents and pending patents
> Patent portfolio quantity/quality score
> Tentative estimation of market share of GaN device makers
> Financial investment to pure GaN players

Power GaN IP profile of key players 169

Infineon/International Rectifier 169
Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) 194
Transphorm 203
Fujitsu 217
Power Integrations 229
GaN Systems 239
Panasonic 248
Mitsubishi Electric 262

For each key player:
> Dynamics of their patent applications
> Key features of their patent portfolio
> IP strength
> Collaboration network
> Key patents
> Recent patented technologies
> Noteworthy news

Conclusions 276



Companies cited

Alpha & Omega Semiconductor
Arkansas Power Electronics
Daikin Industries
Delta Electronics
Dowa Electronics Materials
Efficient Power Conversion (EPC)
Fairchild Semiconductor




Fuji Electric
Furukawa Electric

GaN Systems
General Electric
Genesic Semiconductor
HRL Laboratories
International Rectifier
LG Electronics

Mitsubishi Electric
Nissan Motor
On Semiconductor
Power Integrations































  • IP trends including time evolution and countries of filing
  • Power GaN market data and forecasts
  • Ranking of main patent applicants
  • Joint developments and IP collaboration network of main patent applicants
  • Key patents and granted patents near expiration
  • Relative strength of main companies’ IP portfolios
  • Matrix showing patent applicants and patented technologies
  • Segmentation of patents by technology levels, including epi-wafers, devices, modules & packaging and by technical challenges, including current collapse, E-mode and cascode, 
    as well as by type of substrate including SiC, silicon, sapphire and bulk GaN
  • Power GaN IP profiles of 9 major companies, with key patents, technological issues, litigation, licenses, partnerships, IP strength, IP strategy and latest market news
  • Excel database with all patents analyzed in the report, including technology segmentation