Last Thursday, USPTO published 52 Canon patents, a majority of which are related to printing and Digital Imaging. Canon patented some promising inventions for improving print quality. These patents include methods for suppressing bronzing and uneven glossiness of images, precise positioning and control of print sheets, and inspection of the quality of the printed image, to name a few. Moreover, technologies involving improved toners, heating apparatus as well as printing apparatus have also been patently secured.
Of the 52 grants, Canon has won at least 12 patents for Digital Imaging alone. These include inventions to read out images faster, suppress noise during image processing and develop OLED displays among other technologies. But the technology that grabs attention is that of Organic Electroluminescence Elements (OEE) that Cannon has developed.
The technology talks about elements used to form OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays. OLEDs, unlike conventional LCDs, emit their own light, which makes OLED screens slimmer, brighter and lighter. They also consume lesser power, which lengthens camera battery life. Moreover, their greater viewing angles and very high refresh rate (1,000 times quicker than LCD) gives the cameraman a great flexibility and dexterity while clicking pictures.
In the OEE associated patents, Canon has come up with elements that emit Red and Yellow light at high luminous intensity, thereby overcoming limitations of existing technology.
This is not for the first time that Canon has tried to enter in the OLED field. Rather, these patents only corroborate their keen interest and commitment towards developing and implementing OLED-based displays. Canon showed its intentions as early as in 2005 when it displayed a prototype OLED DSLR camcorder with an OLED display. Later in December 2007, it acquired Tokki Corporation which makes OLED manufacturing equipments for US$ 69 million, with an aim to become self sustainable in OLED panel manufacturing. More recently, in April 2013, Canon launched its Camcorders XA25, XA20 and VIXIA HF G30 having OLED display screens. However, the panels used in the new products were not manufactured by Canon.
At present, Samsung dominates the OLED technology market. It not only holds over 9,000 OLED-related patents, but also produces over 90% of AMOLED panels worldwide. Samsung has already made it clear on numerous occasions that it believes that OLED is the technology of the future, and thus is its prime focus. Moreover, other major Digital Camera manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Olympus, Nikon, and Panasonic launched OLED display cameras before Canon. Under such circumstances, Canon has a lot of catching up to do. Though Canon holds over 2,000 Digital Imaging patents (way ahead of Samsung and other competitors), it is at a great disadvantage in the OLED technology mart.
Hence, if Canon wants to retain the pinnacle spot of the Digital Camera market, then it needs to put in a massive effort, failing which a robust patent portfolio of Samsung can cause serious damage.
(Featured image source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/Flexible_display.jpg)