Company Overview and Patent Portfolio
Hitachi is a Japanese company founded in 1910. They have a broad reach within the IT industry, which is both reflected in their technological spread, as they have a low amount of patents in their top 5 technological areas compared to their total amount of applications published, as well as in their key metrics that are way above average. In 2011, they had 323,540 employees and € 96.1 bn in sales, but only € 4.1 bn were invested in R&D.
Region and Number of Patent Application
Despite the low R&D intensity, Hitachi is getting a staggering amount of patent applications published. Their 311,274 in total, is the highest of the sample and over 150 % more than the average. Considering their below average R&D investment, this shows a high efficiency in turning R&D investments into published patent applications. The total patent output has decreased over the past twenty years for Hitachi, but they have still managed to produce almost twice as many as the sample average in the past three years.
The dominant patent activity based on a relatively low level of R&D investment comes at a cost when Hitachi’s forward citations are analysed. They might have a high total of forward citations, but when compared to their high amount of patents, they have a low ratio of just 2.51 forward citations per published patent application, which is significantly lower than the sample average of 4.11. As seen in figure 17, many of Hitachi’s forward citations are coming from within. This can indicate that Hitachi is good at making continued development on their own technologies, but it might also be an indication that their average patent represents very small technological steps that are of little interest to the industry. If that is the case, then it is a costly strategy for Hitachi, as patent applications are not free of charge. If Hitachi needs to apply for many new patents and pay for renewal of many old patents of low value, they have an unnecessary financial burden that does not give them much value in return.
However, even with a R&D investment and intensity that currently is lower than the sample average, Hitachi manages to generate almost twice as many forward citations as the sample average. This shows that they have a high efficiency at getting their patents cited, even if that means they have to get an even larger amount of patent applications published.
Even though there is an indication that Hitachi is producing many patents of low technological value, they might be headed in the right direction due to their decrease in published patent applications over the past 15 years, combined with a low average age of their top patents and a high immediacy. This could be the effect of a change in R&D strategy from Hitachi, as there might be an increased focus on the quality of their patents, rather than just on producing many patent applications.
Hitachi might not be the leader in every field of the IT industry that they are doing business in, but their patent portfolio shows that they are one of the leaders in the overall IT industry, as their high patent activity shows, high immediacy and broad technological scope. If the trend of increased patent quality continues for Hitachi, their technological dominance may grow in the future.
Analysis of the Patent Portfolio (PDF)
You can find the complete patent portfolio analysis of Hitachi below: