A digital camera (also called digicam or electronic still camera) is a camera that takes still pictures or video, or both, digitally by recording images via an electronic image sensor. Many compact digital still cameras can record sound and moving video as well as still photographs. Most 21st century cameras are digital.In a patent litigation relating to a digicam, prior art search is often performed. The most important source of prior art for digicams is Japanese prior art documents. Japan is the leading country in digital camera development since early of 1990sAs can be seen from the table below, there are about 10,000 patent documents published annually in Japanese that contain the word of “digital camera” in Japanese. For details, please refer to Japanese patent search. Because there are so many Japanese patent documents filed in the area of digital camera since 1993, searching Japanese patent documents for a specific feature of a digital camera is a challenging task.When performing a patent search, we recommend to use a combination of full text searches (broad search) and classification searches (focused search) approach.Digital cameras are classified into the following fields in Japan patent system:
F-Term: 5C053 (FA08 + GB06 + LA01 + LA06 + 5C122 + DA04 + EA42 + FH07 + FH10 + FH14 + FK12 + GA01 + GA34 + HB01)
IPC: (H04N5/93 + H04N5/91 + H04N5/225 + H04N 101/00)
FI: (H04N5/93@Z + H04N5/91@J + H04N5/91@Z + H04N5/225@F + H04N101:00)To illustrate the number of Japanese patents filed at JPO about digital camera and the trend over time, we searched JPO patent database for full documents that contain Japanese synonym of “digital camera”. The Japanese patent search result is summarized below.Number of Japanese Patents Containing the Word “Digital Camera” Vs. Year of Publication:Year, Number of Search Hits
2005, 10045In a validity search for a patent litigation for a digital camera, often classification searches are used if the feature(s) of a target digital camera is well defined. However, an examiner may miss-classify a patent, therefore, we suggest to use a broad, full text search with key word strings in addition to the classification search. By using the combination of classification search and full text search, we are able to locate and uncover pertinent art, if there is a pertinet art.The number of patents filed in Japan patent office in the area of digital camera is the highest in the world, therefore, Japanese patent is a very important prior art source. Based on our experience, in a validity/invalidation search, if the target patent is filed by an applicant outside of Japan, the chance of uncovering good art is higher. A non-Japanese company usually does not perform a Japanese search before filing a patent application because of the difficulties and cost in searching Japanese. During the examination process, an examiner may not be able to perform a thorough Japanese patent search because of the time limitation, language barrier, and limited resource.