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Resistive Memory Patent Landscape - ReRAM and Memristor Technologies

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KM RRAM flyerWith Resistive Memory adoption to replace NAND, how will evolve IP forces involved in the next years ?

The Resistive Memory technologies involve more than 100 different applicants. The main IP holders in the domain are Samsung, Toshiba and SK Hynix. With growing market, new players are emerging and reshaping the IP landscape, especially Hewlett Packard is coming into playground strongly with new resistive memory type (memristor), Crossbar that unveiled architecture breakthrough innovation or Adesto Technologies that acquired Qimonda CBRAM Memory IP.

In recent years, emerging non volatile memories have been enthusiastically studied in order to replace Flash Memory that faces among others, scalability challenges. Among these candidates, Resistive Memory has been extensively studied as one of the most promising candidates for the next generation of memory technology due to excellent memory performances. Indeed, Resistive Memory, that exhibits resistive switching between a high resistance state and a low resistance state, has overwhelming advantages in easy fabrication, simple structure, excellent scalability, fast switching, high integration density, and good compatibility with the current complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology.

The application potential of the new emerging resistive memories - as metal oxide resistive switching memory (OxRRAM), conductive-bridge memory (CBRAM) or conductive metal oxide memory (CMOx) - covers the standalone memory technologies (as NAND and DRAM), but offers also potential for exciting new applications and markets, as new functionality coupled with logic circuits to enable block power-down, or use as synapses in neuromorphic circuits.  Some devices are already on the market: 1Mb 130 nm CBRAM device of Adesto Technologies since 2011 and ReRAM embedded MCU of Panasonic since 2013. Besides, the 16Gb CBRAM of Micron and Sony that will be commercially available this year will allow the development of a mainstream market.

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This patent landscape focuses on current Resistive Switching Random Access Memories (phase change memories not included). More than 2600 patent families related to this field have been published worldwide up to March 2015. In the end 1990s, first patents related to Conductive Bridging Memories were published. Then in beginning 2000s the first patent on Oxide Resistive Memories was published more than 30 years after the concept discovery. Few years later, Unity Semiconductor published first patent on new resistive switching memory: Conductive Metal Oxide (CMOx). In end 2000s, Hewlett Packard published for the first time patent on the application of the Memristor concept to ReRAM. The number of patent applications is increasing since 2003 suggesting a future ramp-up of the market.

More than 15 companies are deeply involved in Resistive Memory IP. Key players include Asian and American giant semiconductor companies (SanDisk, Panasonic, Sharp…) but also start ups (Crossbar, Adesto Technologies, Unity Semiconductor,…).
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The report provides a ranking and analysis of the relative strength of the key 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+ key players, each of which is profiled in this report. Each profile includes a detailed portfolio analysis with current patent activities and key patents but also market news, collaborations and technological choices.

The 2600+ patent families selected for this study have been manually segmentedby memory type (CBRAM, OxRRAM, CMOx, Memristor), and the dataset is organized into various claimed invention (material, process, cell structure, programming). Main assignees seem to fill patents either on one specific memory type or on general Resistive Memory.

We observe a high number of license agreements and collaborations in Resistive Memory technology (Sony/ Micron Technology, Panasonic/IMEC, SanDisk/Toshiba/ Intermolecular, Adesto Technologies/Altis Semiconductor, …), and for the moment there is no patent litigation since the market is starting. But this could change with the adoption of Resistive Memory to replace Flash Memory, since new challengers are entering the Resistive Memory technology. The leadership of patent applicants should evolve in the future in this field.

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More than 50 key patents have been identified based on several indicators, including family size, legal status, citations analysis and impact on Resistive Memory technology. Key Patents are mainly held by pioneers (Unity Semiconductor, Hewlett Packard,…) but also memory giants. In the future, they are expected to maintain their leadership position in the Resistive Memory patent landscape, while new challengers and start-ups could become major forces in Resistive Memory IP.

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 .

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  • Understand the IP landscape for ReRAM and Memristor
  • Identify key patents
  • Understand trends in Resistive Memory IP
  • Classify the major IP players in Resistive Memory and the relative strength of their patent portfolio
  • Identify new IP players in Resistive Memory
  • Identify IP collaboration networks between key players

Table of contents

Introduction                                     3

  • The Authors                                             
  • Scope of the Report                  
  • Key Features of the Report              
  • Objectives of the Report     
  • Terminology for Patent Analysis
  • Methodology             
  • Type of Emerging Non Volatile Memories 
  • Emerging NVM Market 
  • ReRAM Roadmap                           
  • ReRAM Time-to-market                 
  • ReRAM IP History              
  • ReRAM - Technology                    
  • Patent Search Strategy     
  • eRAM – Memory Mechanisms              
  • ReRAM – Segments Terminology 
  • Segmentation of Patents by Type of ReRAM     
  • Technological Segmentation
  • Assignees mentioned in the report
  • Industrial Assignees mentioned in the report

Executive Summary                         36

ReRAM Patent Landscape Overview  45

  • Time Evolution of Patent Publications   
  • Countries of Patent Filings             
  • Current Legal Status of Patents      
  • Main Patent Assignees Ranking          
  • Main Joint Development and IP Agreements
  • Time Evolution of Patent Assignees 
  • Countries of Filing for Main Patent Assignees 
  • Mapping of Main Current IP Holders            
  • Mapping of Main Current IP Assignees     
  • Summary of Assignee’s Patent Portfolio     
  • Degree of Specialization in ReRAM   
  • Leadership of Patent Assignees          
  • Impact Factor of Patent Portfolios     
  • Strength Index of Patent Portfolios     
  • Patent Assignees IP Network     
  • IP Blocking Potential of Applicants            
  • Key Patent Families   
  • Granted Patents Near Expiration                   
  • Potential Future Plaintiffs    

Patent Segmentation                    71
  • Segmentation of Patents by Type of ReRAM    
  • Time Evolution of Patent Publications by segments      
  • Matrix Applicant / Patented Technology     
  • Patent Differentiation    
  • OxRRAM            
  • CBRAM        
  • CMOx       
  • Memristor             

Focus on Key Players                     93

Conclusions                                  130

Annexes                                        136

Companies cited

Adesto Technologies
Altis Semiconductor
Axon Technologies
Elpida Memory
Freescale Semiconductor
Hewlett Packard
Infineon Technologies

International Corporation (SMIC)Intel
Macronix International
Micron Technology
Renesas Electronics

Seagate TechnologySemiconductor Manufacturing
SK Hynix
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC)
Unity Semiconductor
Winbond Electronics



  • Time evolution of patent publications and countries of patent filings
  • 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
  • Matrix applicants/patented technology for more than 15 companies
  • 15+ company profiles of the main “Resistive Memory IP”
  • An extensive Excel database with all patents analyzed in the study