Patent applications filed by small and mid-sized companies that produce core materials and components accounted for only 3.0% of the total.
Patent applications for rechargeable lithium batteries have increased by 10.2% annually during the past 10 years. But the percentage of small and mid-sized companies is low, requiring interest and investment of the government and large companies.
According to data of the Korea Intellectual Property Office (KIPO, Commissioner: Kim Young-min), the number of rechargeable lithium battery-related patent applications filed during the past 10 years reached 6,318, showing 10.2% increase annually. Of the total, the number of patent applications filed by applicants in Korea and foreign applicants showed 4,400 and 1,918, accounting for 69.6% and 30.4%, respectively.
Having been first introduced in 1991, rechargeable lithium batteries have been used as power source mainly for portable electronic gadgets (information technology devices). And its market has been growing by over 10% annually. Rechargeable batteries are expected to energize next generation electric vehicle (HEV, PHEV and EV), dubbed xEV, industry and energy storage systems (ESSs) used for smart grids. As a core component for operating these next generation technologies, rechargeable lithium battery-related markets are growing steadily.
The rechargeable lithium battery is consisted of 4 major materials, such as cathode, anode, electrolyte and separator, as well as components and battery management system (BMS).
Specifically, the number of patent applications related to anode, which takes the largest portion of material in the rechargeable lithium battery, reached 2,141, accounting for 33.9% of the total. Patent applications related to cathode, electrolyte and separator represented 19.1%, 14.2% and 12.3%, respectively. Applications related to battery manufacturing technologies accounted for 14.8%.
The KIPO said patent applications filed by LG Chem and Samsung SDI accounted for over 45.5% of the total, and these companies are followed by Panasonic/Sanyo (merged), Sony and Toyota. Meanwhile, applications filed by small and mid-sized companies that produce core materials and components of rechargeable lithium batteries (23 members of Korea Battery Industry Association) represented 3.0% (filed 0.7 applications per company/year on average). These small material companies are analyzed to be very weak in competition.
The patent authority analyzed that rechargeable lithium battery industry in Korea has been enfeebling market dominance of Japanese companies, but it expected that competition with companies in China, which are growing fast based on rich low-priced raw materials, will get fiercer in the future.
Given that competitive edge of rechargeable lithium batteries can be sharpened when technologies at small and medium manufacturers of materials and components are improved, the KIPO suggested the government and large companies to show interest and invest in small and medium companies in support of their R&D activities.
Source : todayenergy