Sony Patent Portfolio

Company Overview Patent Portfolio and Industry Comparison

Sony Logo
Sony is a Japanese electronics and entertainment company founded in 1946. Despite their below average employee count of 162,700 employees, Sony had a well above average sales in 2011 with € 64.3 bn. Their technological scope is a little broader than the sample’s average.


Region and Number of Patent Application

Sony has a very high patent activity that has been fairly stable the past 15 years. For the entire period since 1992 Sony has been publishing just over twice as many patent applications as the sample average; Even though their current R&D investment is € 0.5bn lower than the average. This shows that Sony has a high efficiency in terms of turning their R&D investments into intangible assets in the form of published patent applications.


Citation Analysis

With 604,735 forward citations, Sony is also situated well above the sample average of 410,042, but due to their very high patent activity, their ratio between forward citations and total patent applications published is only 2.29. This is the same case as with Hitachi, where the assumption was that the patents in average were of low interest to the other players in the industry. This may be true in Sony’s case, too, but considering Sony’s relatively low R&D investment, it is clear that they have a good ability to create forward citations, even though it comes with a high patent throughput. Sony is the largest citer of their own patents, but 37,158 self citations out of 604,735 is close to the industry average.



A key figure for Sony is the average age of their top 10 patents at just 8.5 years, the second youngest in this sample. Even though Sony is an old and well-established company, they are able to keep a high immediacy of their top patents. Being able to continuously develop new technologies that are of interest to the market and not just relying on previous successes puts a company in a technologically strong position.
Sony has a high activity, a high immediacy and a fairly high dominance and scope, which makes them one of the leaders in the IT industry according to Campbell’s (1983) classification of companies. As with Hitachi, Sony is, according to their patent portfolio, a technologically strong company. However, the high patent activity combined with their low forward citation ratio indicates that they are developing many patents that are of little interest to the market. This might imply that Sony is not as good as their competitors at detecting which technologies are worth being patented.

Analysis of the Patent Portfolio (PDF)

You can find the complete patent portfolio analysis of Sony below: