Canon: Shifting its Focus to new Technology Arenas

Canon is one of the leading manufacturers of cameras, camcorders, printers and optical products. The company was originally named Seikikogaku Kenkyasho which translates to precision optical industry. Since the launch of its first camera in 1934, Canon has become a household name for its range of cameras, printers and camcorders.

The company’s ground-breaking innovations have established it as a technology leader. Canon is also a prolific patent filer and was ranked third for the number of U.S. patents awarded in 2018, “becoming the only company in the world to have ranked in the top five for 33 years”.

An interesting aside – On World Photography Day on 19 August 2019, Canon India launched the second version of its digital campaign #ShiftYourFocus. Using social media, Canon endeavours to bring the real-life social and environmental challenges to the forefront through this campaign. In this report, we present technology trends and insights into Canon’s patent assets.

General Trends

Figure 1: Published Applications – Growth [Click on image to enlarge]

Canon owns a patent portfolio of around 198,000 patents and patent applications that are in force. Figure 1 shows that there is a steady upward trend in the year-wise number of published applications from 2005 onwards. This trend exhibits an enhanced growth post 2010.


Figure 2: Key Geographies [Click on image to enlarge]

The home jurisdiction of Japan is the favoured filing destination for Canon accounting for more than half of its published applications, as seen in Figure 2. The other significant jurisdictions where Canon has sought patent coverage includes the US, China and the European Patent Office.






Technology Trends

As a part of a strategic transformation, Canon is focusing on expanding existing operations and building future businesses. The company’s existing product lines include cameras, laser printers, inkjet printers, multifunctional devices and lithography equipment. The new businesses include commercial printing, healthcare, network cameras and industrial equipment.

Canon is strengthening its innovation and R&D activities to attain its business objectives. In 2018, R&D expenses amounted to ¥315.8 billion, and the ratio of R&D expenses to net sales was 8.0%. This substantial annual investment in R&D has maintained the company’s global ranking as an aggressive patent filer. It continues to be the top ranked Japanese company for a fourteenth consecutive year in 2018, in terms of patents filed at the U.S. patent office.

Figure 3: Evolution of Sub-technologies [Click on image to enlarge]

The main technology areas addressed by Canon’s patent portfolio include still picture apparatus used for multiple functions, focusing based on image signals and remote printer technologies. Figure 3 provides the evolution of various technology categories addressed by Canon’s patent portfolio, over the last twenty years.

Using Relecura’s proprietary patent value metric, we determine the high value patents in Canon’s portfolio. Canon’s high-quality patents cover technology areas such as hardware or software aspects of TV signals, apparatus for electrographic process, storage or transmission aspects of camera and reading or recognizing printed or written characters. The Relecura Star rating ranks each patent on a scale of five. It is a proprietary composite metric incorporating multiple criteria. The metric combines the different technology, business, and litigation related factors. Generally, a patent that scores three or more out of five in terms of the Star Rating, is deemed as a “high value” patent.

Read our patent portfolio report to get analytics and trends related to Canon’s patent assets. Some of the fastest growing segments within Canon’s portfolio include technologies related to image analysis, wireless communication, TV systems and camera accessories. The report also includes a detailed side-by-side comparison of Canon’s portfolio against those of its competitors, across different technology categories.

Get the Patent Portfolio Report.

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The contents of this report were referenced in an IAM article. To read the article, click here
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