Epson's Intellectual Property Research
History of Intellectual Property Research at Epson
Epson has a long history of intellectual property research (hereinafter, “IP research”). In 2002, Epson launched the Dolphin Program (DOLPHIN: DOuble Leading Patent by promoting High quality INnovations, a program aimed at boosting Epson's IP capability), which is conducted by an organization dedicated to IP research.
The Dolphin Program, which aimed at earning royalty revenues and expanding business through the utilization of intellectual property rights, consisted of a specialized IP research organization of experienced engineers. Based on Patent Analysis (PA) and Patent Search (PS), the program examined how to win business by leveraging our technical knowledge and networks, and made recommendations for management, business & development, and intellectual property. PA activities are activities to analyze technological trends and the trends at other companies based on IP information, leading to the creation of strategic inventions. They have also made recommendations on the future potential of development themes. PA activities have developed in the form of utilizing IP information in technology development and innovation strategies, and continue to this day as IP landscape activities. On the other hand, PS activities are Freedom-To-Operate (FTO) search activities to prevent infringement of other parties' patents, and these activities have also continued to this day.
Epson's IP Landscape
In general terms, “IP landscape” is defined as “conducting analysis that (1) incorporates IP information into management and business information and (2) shares the results (including a broad view of the current situation and future prospects) with management and administrative officers, when formulating management or business strategies” (Quoted from the Japan Patent Office “Survey Research Report on Analysis and Utilization of Intellectual Property Information that Contributes to Management Strategies” https://www.jpo.go.jp/support/general/chizai-jobobunseki-report.html)
In contrast to the above definition, Epson's IP landscape has the following characteristics:
- (1) Emphasis is placed on the contribution of the IP landscape to the policy decisions of the company/business/development.
- (2) Epson does not necessarily share all the results of IP landscape with management and administrative officers, because the premise is that the IP landscape can contribute to the policy decisions of the company/business/development.
The most important aspect of Epson's IP landscape is to contribute to the policy decisions of
the company/business/development. No matter how impressive the analysis may be, it is meaningless if the
results do not contribute to any policy decisions. It is necessary to link the results of the analysis to some
decision-making rather than simply providing information.
On the other hand, just as there are major policy decisions that are related to the fundamentals of management strategy and business & development strategy, there are also policy decisions at the field level, such as preparing new development themes. In Epson's IP landscape, in cases involving major policy decisions, the results are shared with management and administrative officers. However, in cases involving policy decisions at the field level, the results are not shared with management and administrative officers, as Epson emphasizes speedy policy decisions. Epson's IP landscape is distinctive in its flexibility to match the weight of policy decisions.
FTO Analyses to Minimize Business Risk
Epson respects the intellectual property owned by others and is extremely careful not to infringe on the intellectual property rights of others. This is so that our customers can use our products and services with peace of mind. Even if Epson strive to provide new products and services to our customers, if Epson infringe on the intellectual property rights of others, in the worst-case scenario, Epson may not be able to deliver our products and services to our customers. To avoid such a situation, Epson puts a great deal of effort into FTO (Freedom-To-Operate) Analyses, which are infringement prevention analyses to prevent infringement of intellectual property rights of others.
FTO Analyses necessitate the search of a vast number of domestic and foreign patents for other parties' patents related to the company's products and services, without omission, in a short period of time. In this respect, Epson has many in-house searchers who specialize in patent searches and have a deep understanding of the characteristics of the company's products and services, and are capable of identifying relevant patents from the latest databases without omission.
Additionally, the Intellectual Property Division does not merely identify relevant other parties' patents and report them to the development and design departments, but also contributes to the maintenance of non-infringement activities. The Intellectual Property Division does so by utilizing the strengths of our in-house searchers to participate in the final review of non-infringement judgments, design avoidance studies, and validity judgments for patents of others that remain of concern after the development and design departments have conducted their infringement checks. Epson contribute to the maintenance of activities that prevent us from infringing other parties' patents.