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.

Intellectual Property Leadership

Epson is a vertically integrated company that drives innovation by honing its original core technologies and using advanced manufacturing techniques to create products. Consequently, we emphasize an intellectual property strategy that supports innovation. In 2015, Epson came in 7th in the top 100 global patent application rankings announced by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Our patent portfolio is both qualitatively and quantitatively world-class in product categories such as inkjet printers and projectors, and this industry-leading intellectual property supports the creation of proprietary core technologies.

* Ranking for 2003 to 2012, published in 2015.

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 Development

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.

A global leader in patent applications

Ranking by number of patent applications filed in different product categories

  • Inkjet printers: 1st
  • Projectors: 1st
  • Quartz devices: 1st
  • Robotics: 1st
  • Inkjet printers: 1st
  • Projectors: 1st
  • Quartz devices: 1st
  • Robotics: 1st

* 2016 ranking in number of patent applications laid open to the public (Epson research) (January 1 to December 31, 2016)

Ranking in number of registered patents

Japan: 7th

U.S.: 15th

China: 16th

* The China ranking is only for foreign companies (January 1 to December 31, 2016))
2016 ranking in number of patents registered (Epson research) (January 1 to December 31, 2016)

Epson's contribution to improving and advancing science and technology through continuous intellectual property activities was recognized in 2016 with a Top 100 Global Innovators 2016 award from Clarivate Analytics, formerly the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters. Epson has been selected for six years in succession as one of the top 100 companies in the world for innovation and research. Thirty-nine companies, including 14 Japanese companies, were named as innovators for six consecutive years.

In addition, Epson won the 2016 National Commendation for Invention and the 2016 Kanto Region Commendation for Invention from the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation, reflecting the high regard with which Epson's IP is held outside the company.