Lenovo: Driving Business Success Through Innovation

June 2015

By Fred Gao, Patent Management, TS&IM, Lenovo (Beijing), Co., Ltd, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

As one of the world’s largest computer technology companies, the Lenovo Group is no stranger to innovation. A major player in what we call the “PC+” world, where people use personal computers and a broad range of smart devices, the company is constantly striving to create new categories of products that enhance the consumer experience, stand out from the competition and drive growth.

Lenovo’s award-winning Yoga Tablet, launched in autumn 2014, incorporates new technologies and design features covered by over 100 patent and design rights. (Photo: Lenovo)

Lenovo has a rich pool of talent, employing around 33,000 people in over 60 countries serving customers in more than 160 markets. Product innovation is at the heart of Lenovo’s business success. The company operates 46 world-class laboratories, including research centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Shenzhen, China; Yokohama, Japan, and Morrisville, North Carolina, USA. The ultimate goal of Lenovo’s research and development (R&D) teams is to make more affordable products that add value and connect with the evolving needs of customers. 

Fostering a culture of innovation

Innovation is part of Lenovo’s DNA. All employees are encouraged to share their ideas. A mechanism is in place to foster and screen innovative ideas for further development. The department in charge of innovation regularly pushes the latest science and technology news to R&D teams and organizes brainstorming sessions with employees. After evaluation by the Innovation Committee, successful proposals are fed through to the relevant operational departments. Senior managers also meet regularly to analyze technology trends and decide on the company’s innovation strategy, which is systematically communicated to all employees to ensure everyone is familiar with and works to support the company’s innovation objectives.

Lenovo’s R&D teams have introduced many industry firsts and have a strong track record when it comes to innovation and design. Its commitment to delivering high-quality, reliable and durable devices that meet consumer demand, underpinned by an extensive patent portfolio, continues to drive the company’s growth. Lenovo’s innovative products have won over 100 major design awards.

Innovative design underpins commercial success

One such product is the award-winning Yoga Tablet which was launched in autumn 2014, ushering in the multimodal concept for electronic devices. Inspired by the “hinge” in the bamboo slips – a sequence of bound long narrow strips of bamboo featuring a single column of brush-written text – used in ancient China, the Yoga Tablet integrates traditional cultural elements with cutting-edge technology. Its hallmark cylindrical hinge and metal kickstand differentiate it from other commercially available tablets, making it easier to grip. Its rotatable stand offers users multiple operating modes – stand, tilt and hold – allowing them to adapt to different operating contexts. The Yoga Tablet’s innovative design has proven a hit with consumers, with nearly 2 million units sold since its launch.

In December 2014, the Yoga Tablet won the WIPO-SIPO Award for Outstanding Chinese Patented Invention and Industrial Design and the China Patent Golden Award for Industrial Design. It has also won a number of other prestigious design awards in China and abroad, including the Red Dot Design Award.

The Yoga Tablet is the brainchild of one of Lenovo’s regular in-house designers whose ideas made it through the company’s innovation screening process. It also underlines the benefits of a practice introduced by the company some years ago whereby researchers are required to put aside one day a month to focus on innovation-related matters. Lenovo’s so-called “patent day” approach has proven an effective means of boosting awareness of intellectual property (IP) among employees.

An integrated approach to innovation, design and intellectual property

Lenovo’s R&D teams have introduced many
industry firsts and have a strong track record
in innovation and design. (Photo: Lenovo)

At Lenovo, innovative ideas and intellectual property converge seamlessly. Lenovo’s IP strategy is an integral part of the innovation cycle and product design process. R&D teams work closely with the company’s IP lawyers from product conception through to manufacture and commercialization to develop effective IP strategies for new products. These typically involve a combination of invention patents, utility models and industrial design rights. The Yoga Tablet product line is protected with over 100 patents and design rights covering multiple technology areas, from innovative structure and design and multi-mode conversion to software, display adjustment and user interface. Similarly, Lenovo’s Yoga Laptop, which combines its unique 360-degree rotating screen with standard tablet and laptop functionality, boasts around 100 patent and design rights.

Thanks to its drive to innovate and strong commitment to intellectual property, the Lenovo Group now holds over 22,000 patents worldwide, with annual application numbers exceeding 3,500.

Lenovo’s commitment to enhancing the consumer experience means that product design plays an important role in the commercial success of our products both in China and abroad.

In 2013, Lenovo became the first China-based company to apply for international industrial design protection via the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs. While China has yet to join this WIPO-administered System, as a global conglomerate with offices across the globe, the company has been able to take advantage of the System’s benefits. By filing a single application under the System, right owners can secure protection for their designs in all participating countries, avoiding the time and expense of having to file multiple separate applications with different national or regional IP offices. Having filed international industrial design applications through the Hague System for two consecutive years, Lenovo has taken full advantage of its cost-effectiveness and efficiency. In fact, in 2014 it became the seventh largest user of the System (see PDF, Who accounted for the most Hague design Filings in 2014?).

Within the global ICT sector, the drive to enhance the consumer experience – and gain market share – means that companies will continue to focus not only on technological innovation, but also on product design. As a critical source of value creation, design has an increasingly important role to play in the IP strategies of businesses, especially those seeking to compete in international markets. As Lenovo’s experience with the Yoga Tablet shows, an effective IP strategy both builds a protective wall for the company, and creates an effective platform for international competition and commercial success.

As Chinese companies expand into international markets, they will inevitably need to ensure their IP rights are protected internationally. Services such as those offered by WIPO, including the Hague System, provide companies with a streamlined and cost-effective means of doing so.

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.