Baidu document-sharing site discloses corporate confidential documents

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It is reported that Japanese companies’ internal documents marked “CONFIDENTIAL” are posted on Baidu document-sharing site. 186 companies’ confidential documents which includes a product diagram have been reportedly posted on this site between June 2017 and February 2018.

Japanese companies today carefully review and select their technologies to be filed patent applications, considering cost and risk of unnecessary technology disclosure, and therefore reduce patent application filing. At the same time, they are attracted to trade secret protection and its related services such as  timestamp service which is used to prove existence of a particular electrical data at a specific date.

Once trade secret or know-how is leaked to the outside, it loses its value. In case of patent-protected technology, patent holders can remove violative products from the marketplace by enforcing patent right. Actually, according to the Japanese government data, IP holders could successfully suspend imports of 30,627 cases in which 92.2% of them came from China in 2017.

I have no idea how the leakage of confidential information on the Baidu document-sharing site impacted the victim companies. Certainly, there are doubtlessly circumstances when it makes sense to protect it as trade secret. However, we should fully recognize the risk of the leakage of trade secret. It is important to make employees aware of the seriousness of information leakage through signing a confidentiality agreement or providing confidential information trainings. Before that, it is more important to avoid disclosing confidential information beyond necessity even within a company.


Who solves last mile problem in Japan?

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Japanese home-delivery service companies are faced with challenges. In a sense, e-commerce players are the same. Transaction volume has increased due to expansion of e-commerce such as Amazon, but it is difficult for home-delivery service companies to generate a good profit. The requirements of nationwide delivery, same-day or next-day delivery, and quantity discount, and also shortage of manpower have plagued the home-delivery service companies.

Sagawa Express, which once had a virtual monopoly on home-delivery service for Amazon, tried to negotiate price increase with Amazon in vain, and eventually Sagawa Express withdrew from the service for Amazon. After that, Yamato Transport has been undertaking the home-delivery service for Amazon under difficult circumstances. Yamato Transport also has negotiated price increase and quantity control of underwriting with Amazon. Eventually, on January 30 2018 it was reported that Amazon accepted it. Amazon’s transaction volume is so large that maybe Amazon couldn’t find other companies capable to undertake it. Not surprisingly, it was reported on March 1 that Amazon decided price increase for delivery service for shops on Amazon.

One of the challenges in the home-delivery service industry is low operational efficiency due to redelivery. Estimates of social loss due to redelivery which was made by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in 2014 are as follows.

  • Approximately 20% of deliveries are re-delivered due to absence of recipients etc.
  • The mileage spent for redelivery is 25% of the whole mileage.
  • Annual CO2 emission by redelivery is approximately  42,000 tons.
  • The annual labor force for redelivery is 90,000 people (approximately 180 million hours).

In order to reduce the cost of last mile delivery, the following solutions are implemented. These are aimed at increasing the flexibility of receiving place and time.

  • Delivery locker that allows customers to receive goods even when they are away from home.
  • Allow customers to receive goods at places other than home such as a station or a convenience store.
  • Allow customers to specify day of the week and time of day that would suit their convenience, and also change day and time or receiving place when they receive an email to notify the delivery plan at the last minute.

In addition, although the following solutions are currently limited in use, it is expected to completely solve home-delivery manpower shortage in the future.

  • Drone (Amazon, Rakuten)
    It is necessary to clear safety concerns for use in densely populated areas such as Tokyo. Also it should be consider how to deliver goods to customers who live in a multi-unit apartment building.
  • Self-driving car (collaboration between DeNA and Yamato Transport)
    On-demand delivery service during demonstration experiment. The delivered goods are placed in a storage box provided in the car, and the customers open it with a two-dimensional code or a personal identification number. Automatic driving car delivers goods to designated location (home, working place, station, cafe etc.) and give notice immediately before arrival of goods.

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten reportedly announced building of its own distribution network in the results briefing on February 13 2018. It covers the first mile to the last mile, and suggests the following.

  • Minimize workers in warehouse with automatic warehouse system
  • Crowdsourced delivery including individuals
  • Advance notice system of delivery information using SNS

The problems with distribution network are not without implications for e-commerce companies. Existing home-delivery service companies and e-commerce companies, which will control distribution platform?


Call for Cyber Security Inventors

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A customer of ours is looking for new solutions in the field of cyber security. So, we are now looking for innovators or inventors in this field. If you are willing to help us, or if you know someone who’s a good fit, please let us know.

We can give you documents for detailed information which includes problem definition, examples of existing relevant technologies, and requirements for solutions to be proposed.

If you develop such good solutions that the customer likes, you will be able to receive monetary rewards.

Please join a network of innovators worldwide to solve this challenge.


The intellectual property business matching model attracts attention in Japan

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On February 7 2018, Fuji Xerox announced that it will roll out the patent licensing business to SMEs.

In Japan, a business model for large companies to license their unused patents to SMEs to help such SMEs develop new products or create new business is getting a lot attention lately. Fuji Xerox has been participating in intellectual property business matching between SMEs and large companies since 2016 which is a local government project. Now it has signed a patent license agreement with a company in Yokohama, and made this announcement. This is the first success case in the IP business matching for Fuji Xerox.

This business model brings the following advantage:

  • Large companies can monetize their unused patents.
  • Large companies can expect advertising effect by contributing to SMEs and regional community.
  • SMEs can gain the chance of development of new products.

Especially for large companies, since they provide their unused and non-core technologies, it is unlikely to affect their business and it would be easily approved in the company. Also, the litigation risk is probably not high, because there is a big gap between large companies and SMEs in internal resources (e.g. IP staff, financing) and maybe few SMEs will challenge the patents of large companies or try to use the ideas without infringing the patents. On the other hand, the license revenue depends on future success of the new products implementing the patented ideas. It is unpredictable and maybe cannot expect huge revenue.

Therefore, it is a low-risk, low-return business for large companies. Fuji Xerox clearly states in the announcement that it will promote this type of licensing business. However, it should consider the cost of matching with SMEs, in addition to unpredictable revenues. If an SME is looking for a specific technology and it approaches to a large company which has such a patented technology through its own effort, that’s fine for the large company. However, it would be challenging for large companies to identify their unused patents which potentially contribute to the business of a SME and make a proposal for it, considering the cost. Currently, a local government is playing the important role as an middleman in the  transactions. It should be watched whether Fuji Xerox can grow this licensing business successfully.


Call for Inventors in Food & Beverage industry

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A global food and beverage company is looking for innovative solutions for various challenges it faces in the field packaging, production process and so on. So, we are now looking for inventors or innovators in such fields. If you are willing to help us, please let us know.

We can give you documents for detailed information which includes problem definition, examples of existing relevant technologies, and requirements for solutions to be proposed. And if you develop such good solutions that the company selects for its use, you will be able to receive monetary rewards.

Please join a network of inventors worldwide. You may have a chance to work with world-class inventors to develop innovative solutions.


3 tips for efficiently generating ideas likely to be adopted by customers

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We are working with researchers, engineers and technology consultants to develop new solutions and applications for customers.  We try to generate great ideas that the customers get interested in adopting or at least trying to use them.  There are a variety of techniques widely introduced for generating ideas, such as Brainstorming, SCAMPER, Reverse thinking etc.  Here are several tips for new participants in our invention program to heighten the likelihood of adoption of your ideas by customers, which you should consider before and after you generate ideas, rather than idea generation techniques themselves.

1. Choose a problem worthy of contemplation
What is a problem you try to solve?  Before you start generating ideas, please spend time to think about the problem. It is worth your time.  What change can you expect by solving the problem?  Does it likely to produce an innovative product or service?  Or does it likely to improve quality of an existing product or service?  Do you feel the strong need for it?  The next question may be most important for you.  Do you feel worthy enough to spend time to contemplate solutions for the problem?

2. Review current technology and solutions
If you are an expert in the field of technology and industry related to the problem, you don’t always have to do.  But it’s very helpful and efficient to know existing technologies and solutions to generate new ideas.  So I strongly encourage you to get a quick overview of the current state of technology and solutions, at least by conducting a Web search, before start generating ideas.  It’s worth trying, again.
Also, when you come up with an idea, it would be a good idea to conduct a search for it, just in case, before you firm up the idea.  Someone may have got the same idea.

3. Explain why the customer should adopt your idea
How do you explain it?  Is it because your idea improves its existing products or services?  How much improvement can the customer expect?  Is it persuasive?
Also, a good idea is not always adopted by the customer.  They may consider the cost of adopting your idea.  How many changes are required on their products or services?

We hope you keep in mind these viewpoints when you try to generate ideas. We look forward to hearing and discussing your ideas.


Partners with Xinova to find great inventors

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We are delighted to announce the partnership with Xinova which provides an open innovation platform with a global inventor network.

We will assist Xinova to find great talent who has potential for invention and assist them to develop new solutions to solve a variety of problems faced by its customers and also develop new applications based on existing technologies owned by the customers. The inventors who develop such good solutions or applications that the customers select or the like will be able to receive monetary rewards.

If you have an interest in joining the invention program, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Launch of our new website

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We are delighted to announce of the launch of our new website. We are a Japan-based consulting firm with expertise in intellectual property (IP) and technologies. We assist companies to develop their business by maximizing IP value. We provide three types of services, as follows:

  • IP Intelligence for Business
    which includes market research based on IP data, and IP strategy development
  • Open Innovation
    which includes technology scouting and solution development
  • Business Development
    which provides cost-effective business develop support for companies considering expanding their business into Japan.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any interest in working with us.