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.
From FY 2020, an Intellectual Property Department and a Technology Development Department have been newly established within our parent company, Seiko Holdings Corporation. We will collaborate with these departments to strengthen the building of intellectual property that will contribute to the growth of the Seiko Holdings Group.
Building on our foundation of technological development that originated from watchmaking, at SII we use patented technologies to distinguish our products.
With the restructuring of the business, the overall number of patent applications and grants have been on a downward trend, with 157 patent applications and 130 grants in Japan in FY 2019. Similarly, the number of patent applications outside Japan was 139, with the order of filing regions being China, the United States, and Europe. The total number of patent grants outside Japan was 148.
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 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.
The 1,624 patents held in 2008 dropped temporarily due to alliances and other factors, but recovered from FY 2013 and reached 1,487 in Japan in March 2020. The patent allowances trend outside Japan is in the same situation, and the number of patents held in March 2020 was 1,377.
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.
Also, linking with the internal accounting system improves the efficiency of operations associated with intellectual property.
To encourage inventions and enhance SII's technological competitiveness, we established an indemnification and award system for inventions in FY 1965. In April 2005, this system was revised in line with the amended Japanese Patent Law Article 35. This attractive system motivates individual inventors to obtain upper-level patents.
The revision of patent law (went into effect in April 2016) provides the option of originally ascribing the rights to a patent from the inventor to the employer. In accordance with this revision, SII shifted the rights to employer, and additionally modified the conventional encouragement system to the incentive system.
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 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.
Furthermore, these education programs have been expanded to the employees of the Seiko Holdings Group companies, in addition to SII employees, since FY 2014.
Going forward, we will increase recognition and motivation for intellectual property within the Seiko Holdings Group.
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.