Research and Analysis

Epson's Intellectual Property Research

IP Landscape Contributes to Policymaking

In general terms, "IP landscape" is defined as (1) "conducting analysis that incorporates IP information into management and business information and (2) sharing 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"

In Epson's IP landscaping, what matters most is to help shape policy for management, business, development, and intellectual property. No matter how excellent the analysis, it is meaningless if the results do not contribute to policy decisions. It is essential to not only provide information based on analysis but also connect it to some form of decision-making.

To achieve this, both the content of the analysis and the timeliness of the information and proposals provided are of great importance. From day to day, we focus on quickly completing research and analysis and furnishing proposals as well as on staying ahead of others with research and analysis.

IP landscape

An example of an IP landscape that Epson developed to support new innovations is provided below.

Epson placed a strong emphasis on the environment, co-creation, and digital transformation in its "Epson 25 Renewed" corporate vision. Among the environmental initiatives we are pursuing is a project to develop pararesin technology to promote the use of biomass plastics. The Pararesin Japan Consortium* was established to pursue this goal. Within the consortium, Epson is responsible for standardizing sugar sources derived from used paper and other wastes. To do so, we are pursuing "Plan A." Under Plan A, we are developing technology in which our proprietary Dry Fiber Technology (DFT) is used to defibrate materials such as used paper and other wastes. The fibers from this used paper and other wastes are then converted to a sugar in a saccharification process. This sugar will be used as a source of nutrients for the cultivation of euglena.

* Pararesin Japan Consortium:News release (Japanese only)

The consortium's goal is to build a resource recycling system based on non-edible biomass plastic that utilizes waste that would negatively impact the environment. It is looking to use enzymatic saccharification to break down used paper, food residue, and other sources of cellulose to obtain saccharified products to use as nutrients to culture Euglena and create a stable supply of pararesin, a non-edible biomass plastic.

The challenge for commercializing this was cost, because producing pararesin was expensive. The process used to saccharify the defibrated used paper using DFT contributed to the high cost and needed to be addressed. To help find a solution to this problem, we analyzed intellectual property information using an IP landscape.

We developed an IP landscape that provided a bird's-eye view over the technology development activity and intellectual property in this field. This is illustrated below.

This bird's-eye view showed the location in the IP landscape of DFT-based Plan A. It also made it evident that there were other promising technologies beyond Plan A that were compatible with Epson's technology. Moreover, it showed the height of third-party IP barriers that Epson would need to clear to implement the various technologies. This enabled the Intellectual Property Division to propose multiple technology development plans (Plan B, Plan C, etc.) to the management team responsible for development. Ultimately, these proposals were adopted, leading to the simultaneous examination and promotion of not only Plan A but also Plan B and others.

This is an example of creating and supporting innovation by implementing an IP landscape from a comprehensive overview unique to the Intellectual Property Division and quickly providing information and proposals to management without being too constrained by the original development policy.

Epson's Intellectual Property Division has established a team that specializes in strategic research and analysis of IP landscapes that help to guide policy decisions. We will continue to support innovation by making proposals based on the analysis of IP landscapes for various projects.

FTO Analyses to Minimize Business Risk

Epson is extremely careful not to infringe on the intellectual property rights of others. We want customers to enjoy new products and services that provide the value arising from our unique core technologies. However, if we were to infringe on another party's intellectual property rights to do so, we could end up not being able to use that technology and provide that value. Therefore, we expend considerable effort on freedom-to-operate (FTO) searches to prevent infringing on the intellectual property rights of others.

FTO searches find all third-party intellectual property related to new products and technology from among the vast sea of patents, both domestic and foreign. These are scrutinized to ensure that there is no infringement. Epson has a searcher team of veteran engineers with development and design backgrounds, a deep understanding of the technologies in our products and services. They use the latest databases to perform accurate FTO searches on hundreds of themes a year in a short period of time. Many of the searchers also have experience in the filing and prosecution of patent applications and use this experience to help prevent infringements. If concerns arise about the intellectual property rights of others, these searchers get involved.

Epson's searcher team helps development and design departments determine non-infringement, explore design options to avoid infringement, and participate in final validity assessments.