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FUJI FILM: from Films to Cosmetics - Tracking a successful case of diversification with IFI CLAIMS and KMX

The following is a guest blog contributed by Enric Escorsa of IALE Tecnologia.

In 2006 Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd. entered into the cosmetics sector  by launching a series of new antiaging products. Surely for some it was shocking to see how a company operating for decades in the photography industry had moved now into a completely different sector such as the healthcare one.

In this post we try to understand the diversification process followed by the Japanese company by using IFI CLAIMS Direct patent database and KMX Software.

Fuji Photo Film has many years of experience studying the properties of Collagen. As explained by Andrzej Brylak, Fujifilm’s Europen Director, “Collagen is a key ingredient in the emulsion film and a material widely used by the cosmetics industry. It prevents oxidation from exposure to light and this is a major problem for protecting rolls of film as well as for preventing skin damage

Apart from Collagen, Fuji also focuses its research on other healthcare related areas such as the control of free radicals or the improvement of absorption and penetration processes.

Let’s study Fuji’s patent portfolio over the last few years to track this diversification process.

We search by applicant/assignee on IFI CLAIMS Global Patent Database and obtain all patents from Fujifilm. We import the text fields of the patent (title, abstract, claims, description) into the KMX Text Analytics tool. Within KMX, we can search and highlight documents containing specific terms such as “collagen”, “free radicals”, “reducing agent”, “skin”, etc.  A representative landscape visualization is shown below. 

Figure 1: Brushing and coloring patents according to textual matches with KMX.

Figure 1: Brushing and coloring patents according to textual matches with KMX.

As expected, Fujifilm had been working on collagen for several years.  But when did Fujifilm begin developing other potential applications for collagen? When did that shift to another radically different market begin?  To answer those questions, the landscape map is a start, but perhaps it is not the most accurate approach, as some related processes can be described with other synonym or more abstract terms.
 Figure 2: Evolution of the term "Collagen" in Fujifilm patents over the 10 last years (2003-2012).
Figure 2: Evolution of the term “Collagen” in Fujifilm patents over the 10 last years (2003-2012)

When searching generally for health related patents we will very likely retrieve patents linked to medical image or photographic technologies used for medicine. But it would be very interesting to identify all patents related to applications for healthcare, cosmetics, anti-aging in one group and separate these clearly from those related to medical image devices and image based diagnostics (endoscopies, radiographies, thermographies, radiologies, electrocardiograph, electoencephalograph, magnetoencephalograph, etc.). The KMX free classifier allows us to do that in a couple of simple steps.

We identify some patents related to the topics of healthcare, cosmetics, medical imaging and so on. We ensure, by reading these few patents attentively, that in fact they are related to these topics.  In KMX, we label the sample documents appropriately. 
Figure 3: Highlighting and labeling patents with KMX classifier. 
Figure 3: Highlighting and labeling patents with KMX classifier.

After defining the training set, we train a free classifier.   KMX will score all patents in the studied set and assign a classification for each. We can sort the list on highest scores, check the classifications and iteratively train the classifier until we are satisfied with the results.
Figure 4: KMX free classification applied to Fujifilm's patents. 
Figure 4: KMX free classification applied to Fujifilm’s patents

The classifier we have created allows us to automatically classifying any patent according to our specific needs. With IFI CLAIMS and KMX any organization can establish a continuous monitoring and classification pipeline for all patents being registered in their area of activity.
 Figure 5:Landscape of Fujifilm's patents published in 2011 classified in 4 classes.

Figure 5:Landscape of Fujifilm’s patents published in 2011 classified in 4 classes

Once we have created a Fujifilm classifier in KMX, we can apply it to other data sets, including competitor portfolios.  Let’s look at KODAK’s portfolio and apply the Fujifilm classifier to it.
 Figure 6:Landscape of KODAK's patents published in 2011 classified in 4 classes.
Figure 6:Landscape of KODAK’s patents published in 2011 classified in 4 classes 

The comparison of Figures 5 and 6 shows clearly that FUJI’s patent portfolio, last year, is much stronger than KODAK’s. Both FUJI and Kodak have protected technologies in medical image and in vehicles. But FUJI’s shift towards areas such as cosmetics and the food industry can be appreciated, compared to Kodak’s inactivity in these areas.

Table 1:Patent documents from Fuji and Kodak related to 4 areas of interestTable 1:Patent documents from Fuji and Kodak related to 4 areas of interest.Fuji Photo Film has followed over the years an intensive IP orientated strategy with thousands of patents being registered every year. Figure 7 below compares the overall evolution in the number of patents during the last ten years between the two companies.

Figure7: Patent documents published by Kodak and Fuji during the last 10 years (2003-2012). 
Figure7: Patent documents published by Kodak and Fuji during the last 10 years (2003-2012).


Our short study shows two things.  Fujifilm and KODAK have been working for years in areas traditionally related to the photography industry, such as medical imaging.  But, only Fujifilm has been investing in new market opportunities such as cosmetics and the food industry. 
 
As pointed out in an article in the Economist, the Japanese company reacted earlier and more efficiently to the threat of digital photography.  They did this by designing a consistent strategic plan that included the development of new business lines.
Edited