Epson's Intellectual Property Initiatives and Global Position

With the acceleration of the globalization of economic activity in recent years and the rise of enterprises in emerging nations in Asia and elsewhere, the international environment surrounding intellectual property has been undergoing significant change. China has now soared past Japan in terms of the number of IP applications as a result of state policies emphasizing the creation of intellectual property. The number of lawsuits concerning intellectual property rights in China is also on the rise.

Given this environment, companies around the world are racking their brains in an effort to create worthwhile intellectual property in order to protect their businesses and to increase the motivation of employees.

For Epson to grow further as an enterprise, it is necessary erect barriers that protect its original technologies. The key to achieving this is strong intellectual property, acquired by filing and prosecuting patents for unique technologies we have created.

1. Epson's approach to intellectual property

Intellectual property is an important current and future management resource, and Epson conducts its business operations, research and development, and intellectual property activities as one. All actions are guided by the following basic principles:

  • (1) Encourage inventions that can help increase the value of the Epson Group's products and services.
  • (2) Protect and strategically employ inventions.
  • (3) Protect the intellectual property of the Epson Group by taking suitable action against third parties who infringe patents belonging to the Epson Group.
  • (4) Fully respect the patents of third parties and conduct business activities that do not infringe on third-party patents.

2. The role of intellectual property in the business strategy

This conceptually represents the framework for conducting Epson's strategies for business, R&D, and intellectual property as one.
The management strategy, individual business strategies, and upstream R&D strategies have to be in alignment, and all strategies have to be tightly interwoven and executed.

Seiko Epson's management strategy and intellectual property strategy

3. Basic concept and strategy of the IP program

The IP program has four main components: a portfolio strategy, an IP usage strategy, the Dolphin Project (explained below), and the providing of an IP program platform.
A well-balanced approach to conducting actions in these areas is being pursued so as to contribute to stable high profit margins for the company.

Basic consept and Key strategy

4. Epson's IP ranking

The figures below show a conceptual diagram of Epson's Long-Range Corporate Vision and the ranking, by country, of the number of related patent applications filed and laid open to the public. The key application areas are closely linked with the Long-Range Corporate Vision and are in line with the respective key business areas, such as printing, projection, and sensing. In terms of applications by region, a lot of stress is being placed on overseas applications, especially in the U.S. and BRICs countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).

Conceptual representation of Epson's vision and Ranking in terms of number of patent applications filed and laid open to the public

5. Number of patents registered in Japan, America, and China

2012 Ranking in Number of Registered Patents

Patents = Barriers to entry that protect our technology

Intellectual property is especially critical because our businesses are built around original core technology

Epson's registration ranking, shown in the figure on the left, is the result of aggressive IP efforts.

Epson received numerous awards in recognition of its contributions to the advancement of science and technology and to the development of industry. These include the Japan Patent Attorneys Association President's Award and the Inventor's Award at the 2012 National Commendation for Invention, as well as the Japan Patent Office Director's Encouragement Award at the Kanto Region Commendation for Invention.

The number of registered patents held globally has climbed to about 50,000, and it has become increasingly important to actively file applications and register patents in rapidly growing emerging economies such as China.

6. Concrete initiatives to create patents

To promote the filing and registration of patents that have practical utility, it is essential to increase the motivation of developers to create patents. We have introduced a number of initiatives to improve the ability of engineers to create and refine inventions. For example, we teach engineers how to write proposals that will become the basis of patent applications for their inventions. We also establish research and development themes that are aligned with the direction of the business.

(1) The Dolphin Project

  • The Dolphin Project is a strategic intellectual property program that provides developers with IP tools and total support, from theme selection to commercialization, in the early stage of development. Members of the Dolphin Project team provide developers with the support they need to select development projects based on analyses of patent applications by others. They objectively assess the progress of development and help developers decide on the direction of development. In addition, they identify key areas for development and file strategic patent applications.
  • The aim of the actions taken as part of the Dolphin Project is to ensure industry-leading intellectual property capabilities at the commercialization stage.

Support Epson's business activities and contribute to higher profit

(2) Brilliant Patents (BP)

  • Brilliant patents (BP) are key patents that hinder the maneuverability of competitors. Epson aims to acquire a certain number of brilliant patents in each business and technology to increase our competitive advantage in intellectual property and to help increase business profit margins.

(3) Initiatives directed at overseas government agencies

  • We are also looking to expand protection for intellectual property rights around the world. In conjunction with this, Epson (China) Co., Ltd. launched an IP Rights Reporting Seminar in 2007 to raise awareness of IP issues among students and members of the media in China.

International moves revolving around patents will accelerate further going forward. There will be a concomitant increase in the importance of prosecuting patent applications and of awareness-building activities in emerging nations. As a global enterprise, Epson will further reinforce its intellectual property programs around the world.