Intellectual Property as a Base for the Future

Toshiya Takahata

Executive officer and general administrative manager, Intellectual Property Division

Intellectual Property a Key Element of Business Strategy

Maintaining competitiveness in global markets

The environment surrounding intellectual property (IP) has changed significantly.

With economic globalization and the rise of competitors from emerging nations, many companies are finding that creating and securing IP rights that will continue to generate a high level of value into the future is a critical factor in maintaining their international competitiveness.

We at Epson see our original advanced technologies as the most important assets for running and continuously strengthening our businesses. And protecting these by securing intellectual property rights is a vital part of our business strategy.

An Intellectual Property Leader

Epson holds 50,000 patents globally

Hardware manufacturers with whom we competed used to be our primary rivals for patents and other forms of intellectual property.
That is no longer the case. Today, we have to think about more than just printers and other information equipment hardware, for example. The competition extends to the software and information technology industries, and thus a broader range of competitors.

Epson has thrived despite these challenges. Our intellectual property is a source of competitive strength that enables us to provide products and services that have value for our customers.

Epson applies for approximately 4,000 patents every year, and we hold and maintain roughly 50,000 patents globally. At any one time, we are processing applications and other paperwork at patent offices in 20 or more countries. We are among the leaders in industry in terms of both quantity and quality of patents in product categories such as printers and projectors. I am proud to say that Epson's IP capabilities are among the best in the industry.

IP Professionals

Emphasizing original technology

Epson has an unusually large intellectual property team for a company of its size, and the members of the team have a high degree of professionalism and a long track record in IP-related practice. For example, we file about half of our applications in Japan directly with the Patent Office instead of going through a patent attorney's office. This allows us to learn and improve our patent practice capabilities. Moreover, for most of our foreign patent applications, we work directly with local patent agents instead of going through a patent office in Japan. Doing so keeps our costs down. It also affords us an opportunity to communicate our prosecution strategy more clearly and obtain more powerful rights. We also strive to protect Epson products by exercising our intellectual property rights in more than 20 countries around the world, when the products of others infringe on our rights. These activities are a significant strength for Epson. This is because Epson sees the value of original technology and the critical importance of intellectual property operations geared toward securing and exercising our legitimate rights.

Patent Legal Assistants Shape the Future

IP delineating the future

The role of our patent legal assistants is to secure the rights to inventors' ideas in a way that benefits Epson. They communicate closely with inventors about the ideas for which the inventors think they can secure rights. This give-and-take between patent legal assistants and inventors sometimes helps to unearth ideas that the inventors themselves never envisioned.

For this reason, patent legal assistants need strong communication skills as well as technical knowledge in a specific field. They also need to be familiar with and have insights into a wide spectrum of other subjects. Developing such patent legal assistants is no simple matter, but Epson puts a great deal of effort into training, with a development program that extends over several years. Epson also has a program to improve the skills of inventors themselves.

The people who work in intellectual property have a hand in shaping the future in partnership with inventors. They work with inventors to define, refine, and distill the ideas that inventors conceive into a more potent form. If each individual technology were a point that was placed parallel to our business strategy, they would form lines that delineate the future that Epson envisions.

Wearable products and robots

In recent years Epson has also been stressing patents not only in information-related equipment such as printers and projectors but in wearable products, robots, and other promising new areas made possible by advances in technologies that save power, save space, and provide excellent accuracy. Epson has a special patent project team that works with inventors from the initial stages of technology development to final commercialization. The team's mission is to research and analyze global trends from an IP standpoint and to use that information to uncover further inventions with inventors. The people on this project team truly partner with inventors to shape the future.

Our intellectual property organization will continue to support the Epson of the present while shaping the future of Epson in line with our business strategies.

Ranking by number of patent applications filed in different product categories

Epson's rank, by number of patents opened to the public (1995 - 2015). (Source: Epson research)

Japan

  • Inkjet printers: 1st
  • Projectors: 1st
  • Quartz devices: 1st
  • Gyroscopic sensors: 1st

U.S.

  • Inkjet printers: 1st
  • Projectors: 1st
  • Quartz devices: 2nd
  • Gyroscopic sensors: 1st

Epson's standing as a world-class IP powerhouse

Epson ranked by number of patents, in fiscal 2015

Japan: 7th

U.S.: 16th

China: 15th

* The China ranking is only for foreign companies.(From January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015)
Number of patents owned by Epson, worldwide: 50,477 (as of April 2016)