Today's micro-sized batteries market may be small, but the technology is starting to attract players from different industries. However, a new report has found that the top patent holders for microbattery technology could potentially block IP development for the booming market.

The development in microbattery field is intimately linked to batteries, microelectronics and nanomaterials fields. The first solid thin film battery was a lead battery patented in 1965 by Melpar, and since 1980s, patented microbatteries have been mainly lithium batteries, with Hitachi/Hitachi-Maxwell patenting the first lithium solid thin film batteries. The patenting activity on microbatteries really took off over the 1998-2002period with the creation of pure play microbattery companies such as Cymbet, Polyplus Batteries, Infinite Power Solutions, Johnson Battery Technology and Front Edge Technology, and the IP involvement of Panasonic and CEA.

Now, market studies are expecting the microbattery market to grow from $7 million in 2015 to more than $400 million in 2026.

“The strong IP position is essential for companies to grow their microbatteries business,” said Dr. Fleur Thissandier, from KnowMade. “More than 900 patented inventions related to microbatteries have been published worldwide up to May 2016 by more than 300 patent applications. Such figures reflect the dynamism of the microbatteries market.”

However, today's solid-state lithium microbatteries are commercialised by only few companies—PowerPaper, Cymbet, Infinite Power Solutions and ST Microelectronics, according to the report from KnowMade. Meanwhile, Johnson Battery Technology, Front Edge Technology and I-Ten are working on prototypes and expect to commercialise them within two years.

French research laboratory CEA continues to be the main patent holder for microbattery IP around the world, but according to KnowMade's analysis, Cymbet, Polyplus Battery, Infinite Power Solutions (acquired by Apple in 2013) and Panasonic have "the strongest patent portfolios with a real IP blocking potential."