Intellectual Property

As a platform operator in the Internet industry, where the idea of open innovation is widespread, Yahoo Japan Corporation (“Yahoo! JAPAN”) of the Z Holdings Group holds a large number of intellectual property rights as “proof of safety and security” to ensure that its users can use its services for a long time and that its business partners can collaborate and cooperate with peace of mind.

In addition, to contribute to the development of the information technology society, we promote open innovation, by releasing patents related to open source software (OSS) programs developed in-house.

Intellectual Property Policy

Our basic policy is twofold: to protect our intellectual property (IP) rights, which are an important asset to the business of the Z Holdings Group; and to respect the intellectual property rights of others.

The Z Holdings Group will promote intellectual property activities based on the principles of "safe," "open," and "fair" in order to gain the trust of users, business partners, and others, and to contribute to the realization of a safe and sustainable Internet society in harmony with society.

Safe: To contribute to the realization of an environment where everybody, including our users and business partners, is able to use our services safely and with peace of mind.
Open: To create innovations and contribute to the sustainable development of the Internet with the belief that the continuous development of the Internet will lead to the perpetual growth of the Z Holdings Group.
Fair: With the spirit of fair play, to contribute to ensuring an environment of free and fair competition.

Environment That Creates Intellectual Property

A lot of intellectual properties are created through collaborations among planners, designers, and engineers at the forefront of service development. Recently, data scientists have joined the scene, creating new value by combining big data and AI and further accelerating innovation in the company.
In order to contribute to the development of an environment that fosters innovation, we have established an “Invention Incentive System,” that encourages the creation of outstanding ideas and designs, etc. We also work with engineers and designers to plan opportunities for the actual creation of exceptional ideas and designs.

Encouraging Creations

We are actively involved in planning venues for generating ideas for new businesses/services and R&D, as well as events such as hackathons and ideathons, which are unique to the culture of the Internet industry. With an eye on market and technology trends, we contribute to the creation of ideas that will bear fruit in the future, and we work to turn those seeds into a portfolio of intellectual property rights at an early stage.

Creation Incentive System

In addition to using the employee invention system to provide incentives (based on application and registration of patents, and their evaluation) for the creation of ideas and designs, etc., we also announce the "Super Edison Award" to the entire company for particularly outstanding ideas and designs.

Application and Registration of Patents

Patent Map

Using the Patent Score (※), the diagram demonstrates the total strength of each company’s patent asset on the vertical axis evaluated from the quality and quantity of patent assets possessed, and the individual strength of the most valuable patent of each company on the horizontal axis. The sizes of circles represent the number of patents each company has. Yahoo! JAPAN favorably compares with other world-leading companies in terms of domestic patents on the whole. 

  • ※ Patent Score is an indicator of the degree of attention being paid to each patent. A high-profile patent has a high Patent Score, and a low-profile patent has a low Patent Score.
Image of patent portfolio Yahoo! JAPAN has 3884 patents. It is located between 95 and 100 on the horizontal axis patent score, and around 20000 on the vertical axis rights score.
  • Measured using "Biz Cruncher" of Patent Result Co., Ltd. (as of April 2021)
    ※The sizes of circles represent the number of valid patents (including registered/before review/under review)

Patent Asset Ranking

Patent asset ranking is a ranking that comprehensively evaluates each company’s patents in terms of both quality and quantity, using the Patent Score. In “Patent Asset Ranking for the Information-Communication Industry 2020” published by Patent Result Co., Ltd., Z Holdings Corporation (※) was placed fourth in the category of overall patent strength in Japan. Among the high-profile patents of Z Holdings Corporation is the “method for instantly extracting appealing ad content.”

  • (※) Currently registered under the name of “Yahoo Japan Corporation”
Rank
Name of company
Size of patent asset (pt) (pt)
No. of patents
1NTT
26,735.0
1,340
2HUAWEI TECHNOLOGIES
27,987.5
664
3GOOGLE
13,745.4
295
4Z Holdings Corporation
12,839.9
280
5NEC Platforms
12,439.1
350
6KDDI
9,237.2
442
7TELEFONAKTIEBOLAGET LM ERICSSON
6,705.8
170
8AMAZON TECHNOLOGIES
6,126.8
117
9Rakuten
6,081.3
118
10FACEBOOK
5,669.0
79

Source: “Patent Asset Ranking for the Information-Communication Industry” by Result Co., Ltd. (March 18, 2021)

Intellectual Property Portfolio

We build an intellectual property portfolio for each of our business fields.

■AI

Z Holdings Corporation considers AI as the key technology for launching successful new services, and is working day-to-day on the research and development of technologies that create new value combining a variety of big data. We are actively applying patents in order to use the results in our services in a safe and secure manner, and as of 2020, we have applied for about 120 patents (the number of applications that have been published). We are also providing some useful AI technologies free of charge to external service providers for their use.

Graph of the top 10 companies in terms of the number of valid patents. 1.Fujits Limited (No. of valid patents:462、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :677) , 2.NTT( No. of valid patents:423、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :606), 3.NEC (No. of valid patents:261、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :412), 4.Hitachi, Ltd. (No. of valid patents:237、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :368), 5.TOSHIBA CORPORATION(No. of valid patents:157、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :343),  6.Canon (No. of valid patents:155、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :227) , 7.GOOGLE (No. of valid patents:121、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :125), 8.Yaoo! JAPAN (No. of valid patents:119、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :123), 9.IBM (No. of valid patents:117、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :176), 10.FANUC CORPORATION (No. of valid patents:102、No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications :108)
Top 10 Companies by the Number of Valid Patents (As of April 2021)
  • ・Figures outside parentheses … No. of valid patents
    ・Figures in parentheses … No. of applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications
  • Valid patents … Patents that are granted and valid
  • ※Applications listed in Published Unregistered Patent Applications … No. that includes patents that are not valid (filed/under review/not registered)

<Example of AI Utilization>

Enabling Search for Similar-Looking Items at Yahoo! JAPAN Shopping

Using our in-house developed AI technology, we offer an image search feature that enables users of Yahoo! JAPAN Shopping to search for items that look visually similar to the user’s selected image. The feature uses Yahoo! JAPAN’s proprietary image recognition technology (which builds product detection model and a feature extraction model) using deep learning, and vector neighborhood search technology, “Neighborhood Graph and Tree for Indexing” (NGT). Developed by Yahoo! JAPAN as an AI-related technology, NGT enables high-speed search of similar data from a large database containing data (high-dimensional vectors) that represent features extracted from text, images, product/user data, etc. Several patents have been granted to and registered for NGT. The technology has been released as open source software since November 2016.
For its remarkable achievement and contribution to the industry, NGT received the IPSJ Industrial Achievement Award 2019.

"A captured image of the similar image search function available in Yahoo! JAPAN Shopping
Creating a Sound Forum of Speech with Yahoo! JAPAN News Comment

Comments posted by users on articles distributed in Yahoo! JAPAN News are evaluated using our own deep learning-based natural language processing model (AI). More specifically, comments that meet certain conditions such as “objective, and if necessary, provide evidence,” “provide new ideas, solutions or insights” are scored high, and the high-scoring comments are displayed at the top.

Several patents are pending for this technology, and its API is provided to external service operators free of charge.

■Behavior Analytics Using Big Data

With the protection of user privacy as the top priority, Yahoo! JAPAN is engaged in the data solution business, which analyzes anonymized and accumulated behavioral big data to make predictions and estimates to support people’s actions. In the data solution business, we have positioned the acquisition of patents as a strategic initiative, and started filing applications in 2016, before the launch of the business, and have applied for about 180 patents by 2020. At present, about 40% of the members involved in the business are inventors and have applied for patents, and we are also making efforts to train inventors.

Graph of number of applications. FY2020: 53, FY2019: 37, ​FY2018: 43, FY2017: 48

<Example of Big Data Utilization>

Congestion Analysis and Prediction

With COVID-19 forcing people to change their lifestyle and avoid congestion, there is a need for an easier way to monitor congestion. Yahoo! JAPAN positions the congestion analysis and prediction technology that helps people avoid congestion as one of the important solutions to social problems, and has encouraged inventions and creations on this technology.
By accumulating search logs of searched destination information and scheduled boarding dates, AI predicts "when abnormal congestion, different from the usual congestion, will occur on which routes" and Yahoo! JAPAN Transit Navigation provides irregular congestion forecasts based on this. It also estimates and displays the reasons for the congestion based on social media information such as news articles and tweets on Twitter. By displaying the stations that are likely to be crowded and the reasons for the congestion, we provide an opportunity for users to change their behavior with certainty.

We have acquired patent rights, design rights, and trademark rights for "Irregular Congestion Forecast" to protect the service from multiple aspects, so that users can use the service with peace of mind for many years to come.

Captured image of the congestion forecast

■Cashless Payment

Japan’s cashless payment market had been lagging behind the rest of the world, but with the establishment of Payments Japan Association in 2018, cashless payments are now being used by many people as an alternative to cash. Also, out of concern over COVID-19, there has been a movement among companies to encourage people to avoid touching banknotes and coins for hygiene reasons and use cashless payment methods instead.

The Z Holdings Group offers a variety of payment solutions, including Yahoo! JAPAN Wallet, credit card business, and PayPay (launched in 2018). With fintech, including payments, positioned as one of the Group’s focus business areas, numerous intellectual properties have been created out of our vigorous technology development efforts.
Especially since 2020, the development of solutions around PayPay that go beyond the framework of payment has been accelerated, and as a result, the number of patent applications has nearly quadrupled from the previous year.

■Advertising Technology

With the development of technologies, various kinds of advertising products are born every day in the world of Internet advertising. To make our advertisement distribution more beneficial to both the advertisers and users of our websites and smartphone apps, Yahoo! JAPAN has been engaged in the research and development of many advertising technologies. To ensure the security of these technologies, we have acquired numerous intellectual property rights.

In a research survey conducted by Patent Result Co., Ltd. in 2016, we were ranked top in the field of advertising billing, earning high ratings in terms of the large number of patents held as well as the quality of each patent.

Harnessing Intellectual Property

OSS and Public Disclosure of Intellectual Property

As a platform operator in the Internet industry where the idea of open innovation is prevalent, we hope to contribute to the development of the information technology society. We release the fruit of our development efforts and the resulting intellectual properties to external audiences as open source software (OSS), etc. so that they can be utilized in various scenes.

Participation in “Open COVID-19 Declaration” as One of the Initiators

The participants of “Open COVID-19 Declaration” declares no assertion of intellectual property rights against any activities whose purpose is stopping the spread of COVID-19, including diagnosis, prevention, containment and treatment, until the day when the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is declared by the World Health Organization. Yahoo! JAPAN has participated in this initiative as one of the initiators ahead of other Internet service operators in the country, in the hope of developing an environment where IP right holders voluntarily and temporarily withhold the exercise of their IP rights that may hinder the prompt implementation of the COVID-19 control measures.

Received Intellectual Property Achievement Award 2021

In the Intellectual Property Achievement Awards 2021 hosted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Japan Patent Office, Yahoo! JAPAN received the Award from Commissioner of Japan Patent Office in the category of “design-based management” for the first time. The “design-based management” category recognizes corporations that make excellent use of intellectual properties through the use of personnel and design management that have created world-class designs and contributed to practicing of an intellectual creation. Yahoo! JAPAN became the first IT company to receive the award.