20 February 2023

Semiconductor patents rise by 59% in five years to reach to record high

Data and commentary provided by Mathys & Squire has featured in articles by The Times, The Patent Lawyer, UK Tech News, L’Entrepreneur, Business & Innovation Magazine , Facts Chronicle, World Intellectual Property Review and The Business Magazine providing an update on the rapid growth in semiconductor patents applications.

An extended version of the press release is available below.

There have been a record 69,190 global patents for semiconductors filed in the past year*, up 59% from 43,380 five years ago and 9% more than the 62,770 filed in 2020/21, shows new research by Mathys & Squire, the leading intellectual property law firm.

 R&D in the semiconductor industry has underpinned the growth in technology and the intense competition within the sector has ensured that innovation continues at a fierce pace.

The global semiconductor industry is forecast to be worth $1 trillion by the end of this decade – up from $590 billion in 2021**.

US giants Intel and AMD have been locked in a years-long rivalry to dominate market share within computers by designing ever faster, higher-capacity processors. Meanwhile companies such as Cambridge-based Arm have targeted semiconductor design for mobile devices. Such intense commercial rivalries often lead to the active filing and enforcement of patents.

By 2030, the automotive sector is predicted to make-up 15% of global demand for semiconductors, up from 8% in 2021***. Another key area of growth is the ‘Internet of Things’, including everything from wearable tech to smart homes and even smart cities.

As rising geopolitical tensions have led to trade barriers for key technologies, Governments have taken steps to secure their access to semiconductors.

Last year, the US Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act, which allocated $280 billion to promote the research and manufacture of semiconductors in the United States. The European Union is currently considering a European Chips Act in order to boost Europe’s semiconductor industry.

As the growth of domestic semiconductor industries becomes a feature of more countries’ industrial policies, we can expect new patent filings to continue as businesses seek to protect and monetise their technological advances.

China filed 55% of global semiconductor patents in the past year

In 2021-22, 55% of semiconductor patents (37,865) were Chinese in origin. China has placed a major focus on boosting domestic semiconductor production in order to reduce dependence on western technologies.

The largest individual filer in 2021/22 was semiconductor giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) Limited, which was responsible for 4,793 patents – 7% of all patents worldwide.

18,223 of the patents filed in the last year (26% of the total) were filed in the United States. The top US filer was California-based Applied Materials Inc, with 209 patents, followed by SanDisk (50 patents) and IBM (49 patents).

In contrast, the UK accounted for only 179 patents, just 0.26% of the global total.

Edd Cavanna, Managing Associate at Mathys & Squire, says: “Governments are increasingly concerned about the fragility of global supply chains and are taking steps to promote semiconductor research and production domestically. New technologies which emerge from this global technology race will be protected by patents which are likely to be fiercely enforced.”

“Global powers such as the US, China and the EU are competing to be leaders in semiconductor technology. That says it all regarding their importance for the future of the economy.”

“However, the UK lags behind other parts of the world in developing semiconductor technology. The UK Government may wish to consider whether current funding structures provide enough support to research and development in this vital field.”

*Year end September 30 2022, Source: World Intellectual Property Organization
**Source: McKinsey
***Source: McKinsey