The Idemitsu Group’s business department, R&D department, and Intellectual Property Department collaborate to apply for and obtain rights to patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property, maintain and utilize them, and strive to improve our Group’s business and enhance the value of the brand.
With regard to risks and compliance related to intellectual property, such as respecting the intellectual property rights of other companies and managing confidential information, we design and implement appropriate processes to prevent the occurrence of risks.
Intellectual property activities are promoted through a system in which the Intellectual Property Department and IP managers assigned to each business department are working. Up to now, the Intellectual Property Department has adopted a centralized Intellectual Property activity system in which the Intellectual Property Department promoted the intellectual property activities of all Idemitsu Group’s business departments. However, in July 2021, we changed to a decentralized intellectual property activity structure with IP managers assigned to each business department for the purpose of accelerating the implementation of intellectual property strategies by the business departments.
The Intellectual Property Department mainly takes on corporate functions and is responsible for addressing intellectual property issues across our Group, proposing intellectual property strategies based on patent data analysis, addressing disputes with other companies, managing intellectual property risks, and training intellectual property human resources. The IP managers of business departments formulate IP strategies aligned with the strategies and business characteristics of their respective business departments and strive to expand business by swiftly and effectively acquiring and utilizing IP.
To ensure the market dominance of our businesses, the Group continually works to build and utilize our patent portfolio. In recent years, we have strengthened our liaison activities (invention discovery activities), focusing on the fields of electronic materials and lithium battery materials, resulting in an increase in domestic patent applications.
When looking at the status of applications by segment, applications in the Functional Materials Segment, which is comprised of technology-driven business divisions, accounted for more than 80% of the total applications in both domestic and foreign (overseas) applications.
There has been a consistent increase in the number of foreign patents held, which is necessary for overseas expansion on a global scale, in terms of the number of patents held.
Regarding foreign patent acquisition, we actively provide opportunities for direct discussions with attorneys from overseas law firms and make effective use of the wisdom and experience of overseas attorneys. We also work closely with overseas attorneys to explain Company technologies to examiners at overseas patent offices and conduct interviews and negotiations during patent examinations to ensure that patents necessary for the global expansion of our business are obtained.
Many of the registered patents held by our company have made extremely significant contributions to Idemitsu’s business revenues and have received in-house rewards, while others have been highly praised and awarded from outside our company.
Idemitsu developed a new light producing method for OLEDs using fluorescent blue-light emitting materials and succeeded in achieving the world’s highest light emitting rate and longevity. At the symposium ''Display Week 2022*'' held in San Jose, U.S.A., the paper presenting the achievement was selected as the best paper in the OLED Technology Category.
Three Idemitsu employees received the Science and Technology Award (research division) in fiscal 2022 at the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Awards. The purpose of this award is to motivate people involved in science and technology and thereby help raise the standards of these disciplines in Japan by praising the successes of people who have secured remarkable accomplishments in research, development, and the promotion of understanding related to science and technology. The award achievement was “Development of a highly efficient and long-life blue organic EL light emitting device.”
Idemitsu was selected as a winner of both an Excellent Invention Award and an Award for Outstanding Practice of Innovation by the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation under its FY2018 National Commendation for Invention program. This selection was attributable to an OLED element and an organic light emitting medium both developed by Idemitsu (patent No. 4221050).
The Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation has been sponsoring this award program to commend Japan’s leading researchers and scientists who contributed to the enhancement of the country’s scientific technologies and the development of its industrial sector. This award program is widely recognized as the most prestigious among intellectual property-related award programs in Japan.
In the development of a blue light-emitting element, which had been said to be difficult to put into practical use, Idemitsu achieved a blue color light-emitting element with much higher color purity than the previous blue one, contributing to prolonged life of displays. Idemitsu was highly evaluated by the institute for the significant contribution to the practical use of OLED full color displays.
Idemitsu was chosen to receive an Award from the Commissioner of the Japan Patent Office, as one of recipients of Awards for Excellent Corporation Utilizing the Intellectual Property Rights System under the FY2018 Intellectual Property Achievement Awards program.
The Intellectual Property Achievement Awards program, sponsored jointly by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Japan patent Office, is intended to commend individuals and corporations that contributed to the development of the country’s intellectual property right system.
Idemitsu was highly commended for its track record in promoting its plans associated with intellectual property rights.
To motivate employees to invent new things and encourage the creation of inventions that support our businesses, we established the Employee Invention Incentive Program, which provides incentives to inventors whose work significantly contributes to business revenue. In FY2021, in the fields of electronic materials (1 case) and functional resins (1 case), 21 inventors received employee invention incentives for work that has significantly contributed to business revenue.
From now on, we will continue to apply for patents for inventions that will strengthen our existing business (existing theme inventions), and we will further accelerate the generation of inventions that will become the fundamental technology for new businesses (newly generated theme inventions) that will be the next pillar of our revenues by strengthening our existing business through open innovation at the Advanced Materials Company and the Advanced Materials Project. In this way, we will increase the number of applications in the Functional Business Segment field and increase the percentage of applications for newly generated theme inventions in our applications, which will strengthen our patent portfolio that supports existing and new businesses.
With the aim of further strengthening the patent network of the Functional Materials segment, we have established intellectual property KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for each business field of the Functional Materials Segment, using the number of patent applications and the value of registered patents held as indicators, and will strengthen our patent application and acquisition activities.
We established the Information Analysis Section in the Intellectual Property Department in July 2022, which is tasked with the functions of generating new themes through the analysis of intellectual property information and providing information that contributes to management decisions.
The Information Analysis Section performs analysis (IP landscape, IPL) that combines patent information with corporate information, industry trends, and other information to evaluate the value of patents held by Idemitsu and other companies and analyze their strengths and weaknesses, focusing on the business fields of the Functional Materials Segment. The results of IPL analysis help the Company develop our business by clarifying the competitive advantages of our business. From now on, we will strengthen the level of IPL activities and expand the business fields covered by IPL.
We promote the use of AI in a phased manner to improve the quality and efficiency of information research and patent application business operations.
We have now begun to use AI for research on other companies’ technologies by researchers, and are beginning to be able to efficiently conduct high-quality information research. We are considering the use of AI to enable researchers to create the base section of a patent application specification themselves in the future.
We consider the development of intellectual property personnel to be one of our most important IP issues and focus on improving the expertise of our IP managers and the IP literacy of our researchers.
As for the nurturing of our IP managers, we took the opportunity of the change to a dispersed IP activity system with IP managers assigned to each business department to review the IP manager training system. We have added training by Japanese and overseas patent offices to the training that has been conducted within the Intellectual Property Department to create a training system that provides the knowledge and skills necessary for each level of employee.
Training by Japanese patent offices covers domestic patent applications and procedures for obtaining patents for IP managers in their first year with our company, using actual patent applications as the subject matter. We encourage the early independence of IP managers through training by Japanese patent offices.
Training at overseas patent offices is a one-year training program in the U.S. and China for mid-career employees who have been with our company for about 10 years. The training enables managers to acquire extensive and advanced knowledge and procedural skills related to foreign patents. Over the past two years, we had to suspend training at overseas patent offices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we plan to resume the program in the next fiscal year.
In the nurturing of researchers, we provide training by job level (new hires, first-year R&D / technical employees, mid-level employees, and executives). In the past, trainings were conducted as in-person lectures and exercises, but for the past two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been conducted online. Trainees have commented that training conducted online has enhanced their understanding of the content of the training since they can watch the lectures as many times as they wish. Going forward, we plan to conduct the training in a hybrid format of in-person and online to enhance the intellectual property literacy of our researchers.