A Culture and Organization for Creating Distinctive Technologies
The source of Canon's growth is its distinctive technologies. The company is engaged in the research and development of various technologies centered on its current core products, including exposure, imaging, electrophotography, display and inkjet technologies.
Products Supported by Technological Synergies
In addition to such major technology pillars as optical and precision-control technologies, Canon possesses numerous distinctive technologies, including LSI design, image-processing and imaging technologies, as well as material, simulation, analysis and software technologies to support these. Furthermore, synergies between these technologies lead to the creation of competitive products. An example would be interchangeable lenses for digital SLR cameras, which incorporate countless technologies. Beginning with the optical design, technologies include the precision-control and optical-measurement technologies used in the focus motor, various material technologies for producing the best lens performance, production technologies for correcting aberrations and enabling lenses to realize a more compact design, and digital technologies allowing information to pass from the attached lens to the camera.
These diverse technologies are not necessarily researched and developed by the same division. Canon has a deep-rooted corporate culture and organizational structure enabling goals to be shared across divisions, which work together to create No. 1 products, and the combined strength of the entire company is one of Canon's greatest strengths.
Integration Technologies Born from Years of Experience
As the modularization of technology progresses, integration technologies produce a high level of performance by making minor adjustments to parts and materials in products, contributing to increased competitiveness.
Electrophotographic technology has succeeded in providing stable quality by skillfully managing static electricity, which is considered extremely difficult to control, while inkjet technology combines complex microfabricated parts with droplet- and temperature-control technologies, centered on joint-effort technologies, which could not be possible without the knowledge and ingenuity cultivated by the company.
Such technologies are strengths that have been created throughout Canon's history, and could not have been possible without the company's years of accumulated experience and know-how, rather than relying solely on theory.
Patents as a Strategy for Protection & Promotion of Technologies
An oft-heard mantra in Canon's research and development divisions is that instead of reading a paper, one should read a patent; instead of writing a report, write a patent.
Careful study of preceding patents of other companies by engineers and patent specialists not only helps to prevent patent infringements on the part of Canon, but also has a beneficial effect in terms of the company's own engineering prowess. Meanwhile, the acquisition of as many patents as possible ensures that the company can continue to benefit from technical endeavor while also providing intellectual property for cross-licensing purposes, thus making it possible to enhance the degree of freedom with which design and development can be undertaken.
Canon first setup a specific team to deal with patent-related issues in 1958 with the establishment of the Patent Section within the development-oriented engineering department. Patent strategies were then intensified in the latter half of the 1960s as the company made its first forays into the copying machine market. These strategies played an ever more important role as Canon has striven to diversify, and by ensuring their full deployment in the cornerstone technologies of precision engineering and optics, and also in electronic engineering, recording technologies, system engineering, and communication, the company successfully broadened its horizons.