Protecting Intellectual Property and Brands

Basic approach

“The SoftBank Code of Conduct” for all executives, employees, and group company personnel states that, “We recognize the importance of intellectual property rights, and will respect the intellectual property rights of others, and promote the appropriate protection and utilization of our own intellectual property rights.” Our intellectual property strategy lays out the core principles for how we intend to enhance corporate value and contribute to the industrial development of society as a whole by striving to create, protect, and utilize intellectual property while at the same time respecting the intellectual property rights of others.

We see this intellectual property strategy as being a foundation for our business, technology (R&D), sales and other key strategies, and continuous promotion of the intellectual property strategy helps us to enhance the competitiveness of our services, to maintain and expand our customer bases, and also to stay ahead of our competitors. Moreover, we are striving to resolve societal challenges by undertaking our own digital shift that takes maximum advantage of leading technologies such as AI and the IoT, and by serving as a flagbearer promoting the digital transformation (DX) of society and industry.

Organization

Along with our core telecommunications business, the active pursuit of new business expansion utilizing leading-edge technologies and business models calls for us, more than ever before, to go about our activities with a strong and comprehensive sense of ethics and responsibility to ensure compliance across all areas, including intellectual property.

Our intellectual property division, having responsibility for administering intellectual property, has been promoting our intellectual property strategy by strengthening engagement with the other operational divisions responsible for other key strategies such as business, technology (R&D), and sales. In addition, in terms of enhancing corporate governance and ensuring its effectiveness, we also take a multi-faceted approach to establish the organizational infrastructure required both for the risk control functions relating to intellectual property, and to ensure that our business is conducted in a strategic and efficient manner.

Organization

By maintaining a strong sense of ethics and responsibility to ensure compliance across all areas, including intellectual property, the intellectual property division will contribute both to enhancing corporate value and to the creation of value through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Structure for
maintaining and enhancing
the SoftBank brand image

To maintain and enhance the SoftBank brand image, the intellectual property division and branding division respectively are working together to ensure appropriate brand management, and striving to prevent any negative impacts on customers who put their faith in the SoftBank brand.

Main Activities
  • Auditing of brand usage
  • Strengthening coordination with brand licensees
  • Strengthening practices for identifying misuse of brands by other companies (including enforcement measures)

Along with preparing rules and manuals, the branding division also regularly reviews actual brand usage and supports the business by providing an in-house point of contact for inquiries relating to brand use.

Major initiatives

Strengthening intellectual property governance
in our group and fostering talent

With the aim of achieving the early rollout of new business models that draw on leading-edge technologies from around the world, we are working to expand opportunities for intellectual property, from the intellectual property due diligence conducted prior to the establishment of an operating company through to the subsequent measures that include putting intellectual property rules in place, fostering talent in the field of intellectual property, and encouraging acquisition of intellectual property rights. This also involves working together as a group to establish governance structures, including the formulation of standards for intellectual property governance and conducting periodic assessments of relevant subsidiaries and affiliates according to their corporate phase. We have also hosted workshops on intellectual property practice in partnership with SoftBank Group Corp. The aim of these has been to achieve a deeper and more comprehensive intellectual property strategy for the group as a whole by sharing expertise in intellectual property practice while maintaining the independence of individual group companies.
Furthermore, a course on SoftBank's intellectual property strategy entitled Practical Challenges and Responses by SoftBank Legal has been run since 2019 by the Advanced Business Law Program, part of the World-leading Innovative Graduate Study Program at the University of Tokyo, primarily aimed at educating university undergraduate and graduate students in intellectual property.

Strengthening intellectual property governance in our group and fostering talent
[Notes]
  1. *1
    Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry “Connected Industories” For more information, please click here.
  2. *2
    Due Diligence

Contributing to a sustainable society and practical
measures for resolving challenges

Smart building solutions

SoftBank Corp. offers its Smart Work Solution to help make offices more comfortable and to support diverse working practices, including the wider use of remote work as part of working style reform and in response to COVID-19. With a particular focus on the technologies that go into realizing the business model for Smart Work Solution, we are working to establish a patent portfolio that will differentiate SoftBank Corp. and deliver competitive strength.
This includes adopting a variety of practices in our creation and utilization of intellectual property, not least of which is open innovation.

Institute for AI and Beyond

SoftBank Corp., together with the University of Tokyo and other organizations, has established the Institute for AI and Beyond as a world-class artificial intelligence (AI) research institute and embarked upon joint research. The institute has adopted a two-pronged strategy that combines medium- to long-term research into leading-edge AI with “high-cycle research” that aims to commercialize this work. Another key aim is to establish an ecosystem that can deploy the benefits of this commercialization back into further research and into fostering the next generation of AI talent.

SoftBank's Next-generation
Battery Lab

Established to facilitate the early commercialization of the next generation of safe and lightweight batteries with high energy density, SoftBank Corp.'s Next-generation Battery Lab is engaged in the evaluation and testing of a variety of such batteries from around the world. In addition to sharing the know-how acquired from this work with public research institutions, universities, battery manufacturers, and various other partners to help raise the level of next-generation battery development, we will also manage the resulting intellectual property in a way that, while cognizant of which aspects are open and which are closed, ensures that the benefits are enjoyed by both ourselves and our partners.

Open COVID-19 Declaration

SoftBank Corp. has signed up to the Intellectual Property (IP) Open Access Declaration against COVID-19 (Open COVID-19 Declaration) whereby it has committed not to assert certain intellectual property rights against any activities whose purpose is stopping the spread of COVID-19. In doing so, we are committing our intellectual property to the cause of achieving an early resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SoftBank Corp. has also acquired approximately 200 patents (including some that are pending patent applications) relating to high-altitude platform stations (HAPSs) from Loon LLC, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. in the United States. When combined with the patents acquired by our subsidiary HAPSMobile Inc. in its own right, we now have the world's largest portfolio of HAPS-related patents, totaling around 500 (as of March 2022, including pending patent applications).

Eliminating unauthorized
use of brands that
threatens multi-brand strategy

If we fail to take action against counterfeit goods or services from other companies that make unauthorized use of our brands, it not only invites damage to the brand image and the flow of illicit funds, but it also has the potential to put at risk the health and safety of customers who put their faith in the brand.
To detect unauthorized use of brands by other companies and act rapidly to eliminate or prevent such infringements, we are strengthening cooperation with the intellectual property divisions of the group companies licensed to use the SoftBank, Y!mobile, and LINEMO brands that form part of our multi-brand strategy, working together as a group on measures for enhancing brand value. In addition to border enforcement measures (import seizures by Japan Customs and training for customs officers to distinguish counterfeits), we are also continuing to make information publicly available to help address the problem by exchanging information with industry organizations and government agencies.

Establishment of data
integration platform

In accordance with the Unfair Competition Prevention Act and Copyright Act, we are strengthening cooperation with internal divisions that are responsible for data management and those that are promoting the utilization of data. We are also working to determine guidelines for the appropriate management of internal and external data, and to establish the platform for strategic use of data.
Furthermore, by working with the police on ongoing monitoring to identify and take down phishing sites, we are also helping to create an environment in which people can use data with security.