Canon

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

Industry sector: Electronics, imaging

Founded in 1937, Canon has become a household name for its range of cameras, printers and camcorders. It first set up a patent unit in 1958; the team played a vital role in the development of ground-breaking new copying technologies in the 1960s, which established the Japanese multinational as a global player. Today, each product division has its own patent portfolio manager, tasked with identifying commercially promising R&D and deploying underused patents in new projects. The worldwide IP function has also been streamlined, with each R&D group company reporting to a national IP division, which in turn reports back to corporate HQ in Japan. Canon’s strategy focuses on patenting early in the development process, building a portfolio around the product, acquiring patents in peripheral areas and ultimately excluding competitors from the space. These tactics have secured it a spot among the top five patent filers at the USPTO for the past 27 years. This year, Canon joined the License On Transfer Network (LOTNet); a defensive coalition in which all participants automatically get a licence to patents that any member transfers to non-members.