Frequently Asked Questions

What are OSRAM’s core LED patents about and how important are they?

What are OSRAM’s core LED patents about?

OSRAM’s core LED patents relate to phosphor conversion LED technology. This “pcLED” technology is widely used in the industry for the generation of white light based on a gallium nitride semiconductor chip emitting blue light that is partially converted into one or more other colors by suitable phosphor materials.

How can I find out more about OSRAM’s core LED patents?

OSRAM’s core LED patents have been published in several languages by patent offices around the globe. A list of the patent numbers is available here.

What is the LED industry’s view on OSRAM’s core LED patents?

More than 20 LED producers worldwide are licensed under OSRAM’s core LED patents. A list of our valued license partners is available here.

What are the major factors contributing to the recognition of OSRAM’s core LED patents?

First, OSRAM’s core LED patents go back to the year 1996. Secondly, OSRAM’s core LED patents comprise more than 80 patents granted in all major markets: China, Korea, Japan, the USA and Germany. Thirdly, OSRAM’s core LED patents include a variety of different patent claims, some of them covering white LEDs incorporating YAG (Yttrium Aluminate Garnet) phosphor particles with certain distributions of the grain sizes, while others cover certain white LEDs incorporating silicate phosphor, while still others do not have any limitation as to the kind of phosphor material used but rather have structural limitations regarding the conversion element and the LED package. In summary, many different aspects are covered in these patents which, in a global marketplace, would make it very difficult to circumvent all of them at the same time.

When will OSRAM’s core LED patents expire?

Most of them will expire in mid 2017 while some will expire in 2018 or afterwards and some in late 2016.

What are typical IP issues an LED maker may face?

What are typical IP issues an LED maker may face?

It is of course in the discretion of each LED maker to answer this question in view of the product portfolio offered and the markets/regions addressed.

Which technical fields could give rise to IP issues?

All levels of the value chain may have IP issues: for example, there are thousands of patents in the fields of semiconductor epitaxy and chip design as well as frontend processes. The same applies to the fields of LED package/chip-on-board design and backend processes.

Are there any particular IP hot spots associated with white LED components?

Phosphor conversion LED technology (as explained above with respect to question 1) has certainly been the most prominent hot spot in LED industry for many years. In particular, the use of the following phosphor materials has raised many IP disputes: garnets such as YAG, silicates such as B.O.S.E., and more recently also nitrides such as CASN. In addition, there are also hot spots in semiconductor chip and package technologies.

How to resolve such IP issues?

Once an LED maker becomes aware of an IP issue, how can he resolve the issue?

The LED maker can obtain a license under the relevant patents provided that the patent owner is willing to grant a license and both sides can agree on the terms and conditions of such license.

Is a single license from one patent owner sufficient for manufacturing white LED packages?

It is of course in the discretion of each LED maker to answer this question in view of the product portfolio offered and the markets/regions addressed. However, OSRAM can state the following: Many participants in OSRAM’s white LED license program (see questions 1 to 5) have chosen to also participate in the so-called B.O.S.E. license program relating to the application of Barium Ortho-Silicate Europium (B.O.S.E.) phosphor in LED packages. We assume that these companies decided to participate in both programs because they came to the conclusion that one license is not sufficient in view of their product portfolio which would make use of the B.O.S.E. patents as well as OSRAM’s core LED patents with a variety of different patent claims as explained above with respect to question 4.

Reportedly, also some mainland China LED makers have obtained licenses for the application of the B.O.S.E. phosphor. Some sources say that these mainland China LED makers are now free to enter the global marketplace with their white LED packages. What is OSRAM’s view?

Obtaining a so-called device license under the B.O.S.E.(see question 10) patents, and purchasing this phosphor from a qualified supplier, may resolve one IP issue, namely the B.O.S.E. patent issue. However, as explained in questions 6 to 8, there may be many more IP issues.

It is known in the industry that the five companies Nichia, OSRAM, Philips Lumileds, Cree and Toyoda Gosei have allowed each other to use certain LED patents. Could a third party resolve, for its own production and business, IP issues with these five companies “once for all” by obtaining a license from just one of them?

Indeed, these five companies have entered into mutual IP agreements. However, the rights granted to the respective other party only relate to the other party’s production and business, and cannot be further sublicensed to a third party for its own production and business.

Will the LED IP landscape change completely in 2018?

Will the current picture of the LED IP landscape change completely in 2018 upon expiration of some basic LED patents in 2017?

Indeed, some basic LED patents will expire in 2017. However, the number of basic LED patents to expire until the end of the year 2017 is a low three digit number. There are thousands of patents already now on each level of the value chain from epitaxy and chip to package and module technologies. Most of these patents will survive the year 2017. Also, OSRAM is not aware of any significant decline in LED R&D or patent spending. Therefore, OSRAM would not expect the overall number of LED patents in force to decrease over the years to come.

LED technology has been developing and will continue to develop in various directions and hot spots. It can already be seen that the IP portfolios follow suit. Depending on the market success of the different technology hot spots, OSRAM expects new IP hot spots to appear.