In the first auction, Seoul Semiconductor is seeking the top bidder for 98 patent assets related to power amplifiers and gallium nitride (GaN) RF semiconductors, including 55 U.S. patents. Three of the patents are licensed to the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. Army, confirming the value of the portfolio. This RF patent portfolio is the result of an investment of more than $100 million in R&D by Sensor Electronic Technology, Inc. (SETi), which was founded in 1999 at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York.
SETi, which was completely acquired by Seoul Viosys in 2015, one of the affiliates of Seoul Semiconductor, was at the forefront of GaN device development for high power RF and UV LED technologies. SETi is now focused on UV LED technologies, thus its GaN RF patent portfolio is being auctioned.
GaN has a wider bandgap than silicon, which means it can sustain higher voltages than silicon, and is able to carry current through the device faster. GaN is becoming the technology of choice for mobile and satellite communications, radar, wireless charging and autonomous driving. With 5G implementation coming soon, the GaN RF market is developing fast. The GaN RF market will grow to USD 2 billion by 2024, according to Yole Développement, and the global radio frequency components market size is expected to reach USD 45 billion by 2025. Companies such as Sumitomo Chemical Co., Cree Inc., and Qorvo, Inc. hold a large share of the GaN RF market.