Will Apple, Samsung and Huawei confront each other on the fingerprint sensor field?

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LYON, France – December 10, 2015Fingerprint sensors using capacitive technology represent a fast growing market, especially in smartphones.
“Fingerprint should remain the main biometric embedded in smartphones during the next 5 years”, comments Guillaume Girardin, Technology & Market Analyst, MEMS & Sensors at
Yole Développement (Yole).Yole estimates, 856 million fingerprint sensors will be produced by 2020, reaching a US$ 3,4 billion market, hardware part only. Indeed a new generation of capacitive fingerprint sensors has emerged in the last few years and has been incorporated in the last generations of smartphones developed by Apple, Samsung and Huawei. The market growth for fingerprint sensors is supported by a new phase of IP development. “This growth has been revealed by an increase in the number of new patents related to capacitive fingerprint sensor published since 2012”, explains Dr Nicolas Baron, CEO of KnowMade, partner of Yole (Source: Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors Patent Landscape KnowMade, February 2015 edition).
Under this context,
KnowMade and System Plus Consulting combined their technical and IP knowledge of the semiconductor industry to analyze the fingerprint sensors technology evolution. The partners present today a deep added-value patent infringement risk analysis of this industry and related players such as Apple, Samsung, and Huawei… This analysis is entitled Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors Technology and Patent Infringement Risk Analysis 2015. (KnowMade & System Plus Consulting, November 2015 edition). Under this first collaboration, both companies offer a comprehensive overview of the fingerprint sensors landscape, with a manufacturing process & IP approach.

KnowMade and System Plus Consulting are both part of Yole’s ecosystem. Combining technical, market and IP expertise and mixing their vision of the semiconductor industry, KnowMade and System Plus Consulting participate to Yole’s initiatives for several years now. As a group, Yole is gathering an impressive and dynamic know-how to answer to the industry questionings and help corporations and startups to develop their business.
“At Yole, we are truly convinced of the real insight of a market, IP and manufacturing approach”, comments Jean-Christophe Eloy, CEO & General Manager of Yole. And he adds: “Our build-in methodology is a strong value for our customers; thanks to it, we are able to perform high added-value analysis including a deep understanding of the industrial landscape, its technology challenges and the role of each companies and their positioning”. 

Fingerprint sensors are greatly appreciated by smartphone’s users. Indeed, such biometric authentication mode is easier and quicker than a password to access the device. It also allows to give selected access to applications to each user of the device. Thus the fingerprint sensor needs to be trustworthy.
“In a patent infringement action, the potential sales volume plays a major role for assessing the damage award”, explains Dr Nicolas Baron from KnowMade. Thereby, KnowMade & System Plus Consulting study is naturally focused on the fingerprint sensor components designed by the three leaders of fingerprint sensing solutions and integrated in the devices of 3 major smartphone vendors. They are:
-  TMDR92: AuthenTec, Apple iPhone 5S™
-  FPC1020: Fingerprint Cards, Huawei Ascend Mate 7™
-  VAL004A8-T: Synaptics-Validity, Samsung Galaxy S5™
-  And B1202A0-01: Synaptics-Validity, Samsung Galaxy S6™
Those 4 fingerprint sensors represent different technological choices made by the leaders of the smartphones industry, but also show common characteristics. The report provides an overview of technology data and manufacturing process of the fingerprint sensor components: System Plus Consulting performed the teardown of the four devices mentioned above. In parallel, Knowmade compared the features of each fingerprint sensor revealed by the teardown to the IP portfolio of the technology owner: the selected features are mainly related to the fingerprint sensor die, its packaging and the assembly of the fingerprint sensor in the mobile phone.
Key patents held by AuthenTec-Apple, Fingerprint Cards, and Synaptics-Validity related to these technology features have been identified. For each product feature, the links between the patented technologies and the target product have been established.
“Under KnowMade and System Plus Consulting collaboration, our aim was to highlight the technical similarities and analyze the differences of the product features”, says Dr. Elena Barbarini, Project Manager, Costing analysis, MEMS, IC & Power Semiconductors at System Plus Consulting.

The capacitive fingerprint report is a combination of data obtained with the teardown of each sensor performed by System Plus Consulting and the IP analysis of KnowMade. It highlights the IP behind each fingerprint sensor and analyzes the risk of patent infringement between AuthenTec-Apple, Fingerprint Cards and Synaptics-Validity. Based on these results, it appears that the main risks concern the packaging and the integration of the fingerprint sensor in the device.
KnowMade & System Plus Consulting report provides discussions on the potential risks of patent infringement by comparing relevant patent claim elements to the target product features. “We have identified several potential risks of patent infringements in some technology features from target products TMDR92, FPC1020, VAL004A8-T and B1202A0-01”, comments Dr Baron from KnowMade. “Key patents requiring more in-depth legal assessment have been identified.”
It also includes a database with 26 patent families composed of 100+ patents. This database allows multi-criteria searches and includes patent publication number, hyperlinks to the original documents, priority date, title … A detailed description of this new report is available on, MEMS & Sensors section.

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