Trends in PU Coatings
Quantifying trends in PU coatings is complex for the same reasons as the same task for adhesives. The number of patenting companies is very large, and the subject matter tends to be company specific. While many multinational PU producers have coatings businesses, they do not all have developed patent strategies relative to coatings. This is certainly a reflection of the centrality of aliphatic isocyanates to coatings technologies. Figure 10.24 is an illustrative graph of large companies and their PU coatings activity from the years 2000 to 2014 during which over 800 patents were filed worldwide specifically on protecting PU coatings assets.
FIGURE 10.24 Patent activity for the years 2000 through 2014 by large multinational polyurethane manufacturers and DuPont de Nemours, a large multinational producer of coatings for these years. Patents are on compositions of matter, process, or applications of polyurethane coatings.
FIGURE 10.25 Bayer activity 2000 through 2014 on polyurethane coatings compositions of matter.
Bayer is by far the most active single filer of patents on PU coatings. This is a reflection of Bayer's wide portfolio of aliphatic isocyanates including HDI, IPDI, H12MDI, and blocked modifications and trimers of these materials. In fact, a look at the subject matter of coating compositions (Fig. 10.25) shows that Bayer is highly focused on patenting applications and formulations associated with their product portfolio.
FIGURE 10.26 Patent activity for the years 2000 through 2014 by filing language as a proxy for regional application of polyurethane coatings. This analysis does not filter out filed Japanese kokai patent applications, many of which are never examined.
BASF is also a producer of aliphatic isocyanates but produces much smaller volumes than Bayer. However, BASF has widespread systems house operations. Thus, BASF protects primarily novel formulations as well as innovations pertaining to their building block manufacture. By contrast, Dow and Huntsman do not manufacture aliphatic isocyanates and their patent activity is concomitantly less (Fig. 10.24).
An alternative means of exploring technology trends is to view patent activity on a regional basis. Figure 10.26 shows the intensity of PU coating patent activity based on filing language. Japanese patent activity is by far the most prevalent reflecting their manufacturing concentrations and preferences. However, it is important to appreciate that the data in Figure 10.26 do not filter out kokai patent applications that may or may not ever be examined and are sometimes produced by manufacturers for the sole purpose of destroying patentability.
A simplified segmentation of Japanese patent activity is presented in Figure 10.27. The breadth of applications for which PU coatings are specifically the subject of patent protection is widely distributed and reflects the preferences of Japanese manufacturers for the properties PU coatings provide. A similar analysis of English and German activity shows the concentration of activity around textiles and metal coatings, particularly for automotive applications. The breadth of patent activity in all analyses does not point directly to specific trends for PU coatings apart from those relating to coating durability and aesthetic while providing improved environmental, health, and safety profiles for their use. This is amplified by the exponential growth in patent activity for production of aqueous PU dispersions for adhesives and coatings since 1980 (Fig. 10.8).
FIGURE 10.27 Distribution of filed patent documents on polyurethane coatings by application for regions of highest patent activity. Regional intensity is in automotive, textile, and construction applications.