Protection of intellectual property

  Business, R&D and intellectual property
    strategies are mutually inseparable like
    the two sides of a coin.
    Showa Denko shares information about
    the three types of strategies it employs
    closely and seamlessly between
    the three parties to ensure that
    they are aligned with each other.

The Showa Denko Group regards its intellectual property strategies as one of its important managerial strategies, and formulates and implements the business, R&D and intellectual property strategies in an integrated manner. We also constantly work to build a robust and broad network of patents for our major business segments and important products developed by the Group, thereby maintaining our competitive edge.


Medium- to long-term target (Materiality KPI)

New applications: From 342 in 2018 to 405 in 2022, and to 460 in 2025
We will implement the following measures to attain the KPI.

  • Find the seeds for inventions
  • Intensive patent applications for strategic development projects
  • Multifaceted patent applications with a focus on parameter patents
  • Downstream patent applications for materials with a focus on patents for the invention of use

Showa Denko regards the protection of intellectual property as one of its material issues.

Resluts of KPI

In 2019, we achieved more than 350 new patent applications (342 in 2018).
We operate many of our businesses globally, and in order to support these businesses, we proactively file applications for intellectual property rights outside Japan as well. The global application rate (percentage of applications made outside Japan based on applications in Japan) has been at least 50% on average for the past seven years.
We also respect the intellectual property rights of other companies. We have built a patent monitoring system that also includes foreign patents in the target, to check the trends of other companies concerning their intellectual property rights. We also proactively protect our trade secrets and copyrights.

In 2020, amid the novel coronavirus crisis, the number of inventions the Group creates may decrease due to the slowdown of its R&D activities and time lag may increase regarding applications. We will work to reduce such adverse impact in collaboration with the R&D departments and by diversifying the means of communication.

Toward the future

We will further expand our intellectual property portfolio to increase our competitiveness both quantitatively and qualitatively. In addition, we will make careful assessments regarding cost-effectiveness while fostering the acquisition of intellectual property rights outside Japan in the globalization of our businesses.

Other measures

Use of AI

Showa Denko has been proactively making use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the intellectual property field as part of its efforts to spread the use of AI across the company.
By making effective use of AI, we will increase our research efficiency, reduce the risk of infringing upon the intellectual property rights of other companies, and more strategically conduct intellectual property-related operations to enhance the competitiveness of our company.
In 2019, we started to implement the following two measures to increase the efficiency of our intellectual property-related operations: (1) application of AI for the sorting of data in order of similarity for SDI* in Japan; and (2) operation of the patent interpretation support system in which the AI developed in partnership with IBM Japan, Ltd. is used. In 2020, we will further advance the system to one that can deal with patents in foreign languages, thereby making it possible to conduct surveys in a more efficient manner.
*Selective dissemination of information (SDI): System for the regular sharing of information about patent applications related to the company

We are also conducting examinations to make more effective use of AI for the creation of new intellectual property. AI-based web-wide data search, compilation and analysis and the formulation of strategies are proving to be very useful to find new customers, search for new product applications and examine M&As. We expect that the technology will greatly help us conduct R&D and business operations in the near future.

System to reward internal inventors

Ceremony held to commend
the internal inventors
ranked in the top three (2019)

Showa Denko has an incentive system for internal inventors. Under the system, inventors are given rewards for their inventions when a patent application is filed for the invention, the patent is registered, the patent is implemented and profit is made, and also when license fees are paid by other companies for the patent. In 2019, we revised the rules for this incentive system to further expand it. In order to promote the filing of more valuable patent applications, we also commend our top three employees in terms of the number of patent applications filed and patents registered in the previous year.

Shift from “defense” to “offense” in intellectual property activities

The voluntary activity conducted mainly by members of the Intellectual Property Department to create R&D themes from the viewpoint of intellectual property won first prize from the CEO in 2020 under the program in which the CEO gives commendations for diversity.
Patent applications are made basically for substances and manufacturing methods invented by researchers and developers, but in the voluntary activity, employees worked to acquire a basic patent to foster business strategies for the promotion of business and development activities. They set a research theme by predicting future technologies, thereby creating new value (new patent application).
As for diversity, members with different expertise cooperated together while making use of their individual abilities, and in recognition of this, they were awarded the CEO’s commendation for diversity.

Toward the future, in addition to these measures, we will add functions that were not implemented by our conventional patent handling departments, such as proactive building of an intellectual property network and the formulation of business strategies by making full use of IP landscaping, thereby shifting from “defense” to “offense” in our intellectual property activities and advancing our intelligence functions.

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