Intellectual Property Initiatives
Regarding intellectual property as an essential resource for business activities, we proactively obtain and utilize our development results as intellectual assets. Based on the mid- to long-term policy to "develop a business culture that respects intellectual property," the Intellectual Property, R&D, and Production Technology Divisions work together to implement intellectual property-related activities to create new business and supporting divisions in cooperation with the Corporate Strategy Division.
Seiko Future Creation Inc. was established on July 1, 2022 as a group company of Seiko Group Corporation, the parent company, with the primary functions of group-wide research and development, production technology development, business support, and new business development across the group. Seiko Future Creation Inc. will strengthen its collaboration with the Seiko Group, and will enhance the building of intellectual property that will contribute to the growth of the Group.
Building on our foundation of technological development that originated from watchmaking, at SII we use patented technologies to distinguish our products.
There were 64 patent applications and 72 grants within Japan in FY 2022. Similarly, the number of patent applications outside Japan was 84, with the order of filing regions being China, the United States, and Europe. The total number of patent grants outside Japan was 65.
At the same time, we have been working to improve the rate of patent grants since FY 2008, with the aim of improving the quality of each application. Although the rate varies from year to year, the rate has been improving, and it is now at a level higher than the overall rate in Japan published by the Japan Patent Office. The rate of patent grants for FY 2022 reached a high level of over 80%. The Intellectual Property Department is steadily working with our inventors to obtain patent rights, and this has led to an upward spiral in the quality of their new applications.
We will continue our efforts to improve the quality of each application and build a strong intellectual property base in order to enhance our brand value.
As for the number of patents held, as of March 2023, the number of patents held within Japan was 572. The patent grants trend outside Japan is similar, with 656 patents held as of March 2023.
SII promotes the establishment of an information system for intellectual property that can be the basis of formulating an intellectual property strategy. This system is linked with SII's intellectual property management system, a survey system for competitors' patents, and even a patent map creation and analysis system, which enables more effective management of intellectual property.
In recent years, we have expanded our patent search system and added a patent search module using AI-based text mining to the existing system, and promoted its use company-wide, thereby contributing to reducing the burden of patent searches on inventors and engineers.
System for Invention for Employee: From Indemnification to Incentive
To encourage inventions and enhance SII's technological competitiveness, we established an indemnification and award system for inventions in FY 1965. The revision of patent law (which went into effect in April 2016) provides the option of originally shifting the rights to a patent from the inventor to the employer. In accordance with this revision, SII shifted the rights to the employer, and additionally modified the conventional encouragement system to the incentive system. This attractive system motivates individual inventors to obtain upper-level patents.
In addition, we present awards and prizes annually to outstanding inventors and to outstanding new inventors (those who have been in the company for less than 3 years) in an effort to encourage further inventions from our employees and to foster young inventors. We also actively utilize the award systems of external organizations such as the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation.
■Won the Invention Encouragement Award at the Kanto Region Invention Awards
Patent 6817008 for inkjet printhead technology of SII Printek Inc. won the Invention Encouragement Award at the Kanto Region Invention Awards organized by Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation in FY 2022. The award was given in recognition of the uniqueness of the technology and its contribution to industry. We will continue to make efforts to improve our technology while actively utilizing the award systems of external organizations.
We established intellectual property education programs based on the level of each employee's understanding. The education program aims to develop employee knowledge and awareness for developing strong patents and preventing infringement of competitor's patents, as well as enhancing motivation in the area of intellectual property.
As the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to conduct group training, we changed all courses to an online format from FY 2020, and shortened the time to make it easier to attend. As a result, the total number of participants increased and we were able to contribute more to improving the skills of our employees. This was because courses previously held at the Makuhari head office can now be held at regional offices or at home, thanks to the shift to online courses and the reduction in the time required per course.
In addition, we would like to broaden the base of participants by promoting the course to other companies in the Seiko Group, as well as educating non-technical personnel.
We have been actively supporting intellectual property-related associations which strive to achieve an intellectual property-based nation. SII dispatches committee members and lecturers, and provides comments on proposals from the associations to the Patent Agency, as well as promoting local intellectual property strategies.
We will also actively participate in the study groups of related organizations to find clues to solve problems and build external networks.